Category: Mentoring

How to Fit a Retreat into a Basket

Momentum’s executive programs usually begin with a two-day retreat, relaxing near a forest or pond. This year, we had to get creative in welcoming our new class! With a little help from Alabama Goods, Momentum logistics manager Katherine Thrower arranged locally sourced happies to create a “retreat in a basket.” Unlike the traditional fruit basket, each item had meaningful significance that was referenced in our sessions (don’t worry…we made room for snacks!). The whole Momentum team took part in dropping off baskets at each participants’ house to ensure they would feel celebrated!

“The retreat is about making them feel special because they are special,” says CEO April Benetollo. Each participant was analyzed based on their background, professional experience, and stage in life. If they were selected this year, “it’s the right time for them to be doing this.” This well-rounded group connected in breakout sessions and interactive activities to start the year off right. While the retreat focuses on emotional intelligence and awareness, the executive program shifts into different themes throughout the year.

Have you ever wondered what makes Momentum’s programming unique? We don’t just proofread your resume and send you on your way with a handout on teamwork. Momentum was founded with the goal of creating intentional relationships and personal growth.

  • The retreat sets the forecast for the rest of the year, asking participants, “Who are you?”
  • The next quarter focuses on the participant’s strengths and talents, asking, “How could you be directed to bring you more joy and value to your job/community?”
  • After that comes the real work. “How do you get there?” Momentum offers negotiation skills and resilience training to prep participants for the final stage.
  • Looking forward, the question remains, “How do you take that beyond you? What can you bring to your job, community, family, etc.?” Participants are encouraged to volunteer or join a local board to become more engaged with their community. In terms of professional growth, class members learn tactics to claim visibility, accept recognition, and share expertise with future game-changers.

Whether you’re in a program or not, Momentum has a place for you! Join us as a mentee or mentor today to meet more inspiring women in your community.

Finding Financial Confidence

As COVID continues and stimulus checks remain unpredictable, it is more important than ever to find financial stability and security. DeLynn Zell, CEO of Bridgeworth Financial, gave a detailed presentation last month on how to control personal finances during the COVID crisis. Some of her suggestions include creating a budget, establishing savings, and making a financial plan. 

Unfortunately, women have historically earned less than men. “Women are three times as likely as men to say they can’t afford to save for retirement and have significantly lower rates of financial literacy. Women also make up the majority of caregivers, and are three times more likely than men to quit their jobs to care for a family member.” Despite men spending more time working from home, women are still bearing the brunt of the labor. According to Forbes, mother’s work hours fell four times as much as father’s in April, widening the already existing gender gap. Most men worked the same amount of hours, but women were expected to take on additional caregiving and homeschooling responsibilities. The future remains uncertain, but women across the country are finding unique ways to support each other. 

Here are some ways women are gaining strength:

  1. Being vulnerable. “Talking about and sharing more stories about the success of women who took chances, made missteps and still ended up on top are vital to helping more women go after their dreams and not be so focused on seeking perfection,” said Sarah Kauss, Founder & CEO of S’Well. Mentoring relationships are a great way to swap stories and bring encouragement.
  2. Improving emotional intelligence. According to the US Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship, “Investors ask men about opportunity and the potential for gains while women are questioned about the potential for losses.” Reframing challenges and gaining confidence can help narrow the gap. Jean Ann Larson, Chief Leadership Development Officer at UAB, gave an insightful presentation on the role of emotions in the workplace.
  3. Speaking up. “College-educated women make about 90% as much as men at age 25, but only 55% as much at age 45.” Of Momentum’s Alumni, 79% agreed or strongly agreed that Momentum had a positive influence on their attitude to negotiate in the workplace. Delphine Carter, Founder of Boulo Solutions, works every day to help women find new careers. Her advice on achieving professional goals is for women to proudly share their accomplishments in a comfortable way, allow themselves to be whomever they want and, as importantly, learn to support each other on that journey.

Meet Mentor/Mentee Pair Joy Carter and Coleysia Chestnut

A mentor is a valuable resource to have in your professional and personal life. I got to sit down and chat with Joy Carter and Coleysia Chestnut on their mentor/mentee relationship that they have developed over the past two years. 

Joy Carter, APR, is Communications Manager for AMERICAN Cast Iron Pipe Company, a Birmingham-based manufacturer of iron and steel pipe, fire hydrants and valves. She is a PR/communications graduate of Auburn University and is Accredited in Public Relations (APR). She serves on the executive boards of Momentum and the Literacy Council of Central Alabama and is active in the Public Relations Society of America and the Public Relations Council of Alabama.

Coleysia Chestnut is on the Engineering Workforce Management team at BBVA. She has a Master’s degree in Strategic Communication from Troy University and BS in Urban Planning from Alabama A&M University. She is a published author of The Exhale Journal and advocates for equity and inclusion of minority groups within corporations. Above all else, her most proud accolade is being the mother of her sweetest 2 year son, Randall.

How did you meet and decide to become a pair?

Coleysia:

I had completed my masters degree in Strategic Communication in 2017 and had just started my communications role shortly after. I decided to attend Birmingham Business Journal’s Mentoring Monday event, which is essentially “speed mentoring.” Individuals have the opportunity to speak with as many mentors as they want within an hour span but only have about 7 minutes with each mentor. I saw that Joy was going to be one of the mentors and I came prepared with a list of questions. I was 8 months pregnant at the time. After meeting, we went to lunch. Joy was actually one of the few who made it to the hospital when my child was born; I thought it was amazing that she came. 

Joy:

I was so impressed with Coleysia at the event. They said, “go,” and I looked up and she was making a beeline for me. She sat down with her notebook and began asking her questions. I was just immediately so impressed with her. I really enjoyed the very short conversation we had. Afterward, she called to follow up to ask“Will you be my mentor?” She was very specific in asking for the relationship. She was the catalyst. Her tenacity and drive impress me. I often tell her it is a co-mentoring relationship; I learn from her, too, in her role as a communications professional. It’s been a wonderful co-mentoring relationship. 

What have you learned from each other throughout your relationship? 

Joy:

She always comes prepared to our meetings with a question or something she wants to talk about, but it often leads to questions that I have for her. As a young professional, she is so very smart and she is so good with technology. Each time we get together it is an opportunity for me to learn from her. At our most recent get together I was most interested to talk with her about a diversity and inclusion project she is a part of at BBVA, and she shared with me some really good resources for that. Every get together is an opportunity to learn from each other. 

Coleysia:

Joy teaches me a lot about navigating the corporate arena. I remember being frustrated because I wasn’t moving up in my role and felt like I should be in a different place in my career–she reminded me that it was okay, because I was still fairly new and if I used this time to soak up as much information as I could and focus on mastering my current role, opportunities for advancement would soon follow.  There are always things that I will run by her, like “something about this does not seem fair to me, what is your opinion on it or how would you handle it?” Given her HR experience, she offers a different professional perspective outside of my network which I really do appreciate. Overall, I rely heavily on Joy for giving me advice about navigating corporate America and how to accomplish professional goals. 

How have you appreciated being a pair that isn’t exactly alike?

Joy:

Thinking back to our last meeting, and talking about diversity and inclusion, it was knowing I could have that conversation with her, and we were both coming from a place of respect and wanting and needing to talk and share. I wanted to listen and ask for her perspective and insight. It’s extremely beneficial to have the relationship we do, where we can have an open conversation. 

Coleysia:

I think Joy is amazing for me because a lot of times when black people–and black women in particular–when we speak up, it can sometimes come across as whining. With Joy I felt safe to talk about some of my concerns with the racism we’ve been encountering. It may come off as a “vent,” but sometimes it’s important to have someone you can talk to about racism in the workplace. Who better to talk to about that than with someone who has agreed to be your mentor? It creates a safe environment for me to talk. Across the board, Joy is my safe space where I can talk about things that matter to me as it relates to work and even things outside of work. 

Why do you think it’s important to promote diversity within professional environments and relationships?

Coleysia:

It’s important to have different perspectives. When I approached Joy, I didn’t approach her as a white woman. She was the communications manager of a pretty big company and that was something I was interested in. At the beginning of our relationship there had been some discriminatory issues with my previous company. As she helped me navigate that experience, I’m sure she got a lot of insight on roadblocks and challenges experienced by a minority female. Exposure to these injustices are critical, so when someone has the opportunity to have a voice of an organization, they can consider the impact and tone of communications to ALL employees. As we share experiences together, we learn a little bit about some of both of our cultures that may impact the work environment. Just as she may learn from some of my stories, I learn from hers by being a woman navigating through her previous roles. Granted there are injustices for black people as a race, but women are also marginalized in my opinion in the work environment. Getting her insight and guidance through that was very valuable. I can’t thank Joy enough. 

Joy:

We all bring different strengths and talents to our jobs, communities, and families. For that reason, we need to do a much better job in corporate America and in our communities of working towards more inclusion. In what we have seen in the last few months, we have a long way to go, but these conversations, which are perhaps awkward or difficult to have, are so important in moving us forward. Having relationships, like the one Coleysia and I have, provide safe places to share and learn together. We need that in our workplaces and in our communities.

One of the efforts that Coleysia is working with at BBVA, Team Talks, allows people to have these conversations. It’s really sad that decades after the Civil Rights movement we are still struggling to make more progress, as Coleysia said, for our black communities, for women in the workplace, and other groups as well. Relationships, like ours, are the basis for the conversations that we have to have to accelerate progress. It’s not enough to say, “We’re making progress.” We’ve got to move faster towards diversity in our companies and diversity at upper levels of management. There needs to be change, and it needs to happen faster. 

Do you have any advice for someone looking to get into a mentor/mentee relationship?

Coleysia:

If I could, offer advice as a mentee, because I do feel as though it is primarily the role of the mentee to promote this relationship. You need to assess yourself so you know what skills you lack and will know what to look for in a mentor. If there is an opportunity, I would first acknowledge that you realize who they are and have done your research on that person. When you do approach them, you need to be direct and communicate what you want to get out of your relationship. Be open to the answer being no. When you have someone that is in the position that you would like to be in one day, you need to understand that they are probably very busy. When I approached Joy I wasn’t arrogant in asking her to drag me along on her career journey it was more, “If you have time, I would like for you to share some of your knowledge with me.” Be prepared and be very intentional. Set expectations for yourself and know what you want from that person before you approach them. 

Joy:

The word intentional is great. And, yes, it is the responsibility of the mentee to reach out. As I said, when Coleysia and I met she was very direct in asking me to be her mentor. She is always prepared with something specific she wants to talk about. Again, that always leads to me asking questions and learning from her as well. Identify what you need from the relationship and the professional, and then identify who could best help you achieve that. I was very flattered to be asked to be her mentor. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a professional and to make that ask, because they should be extremely flattered they are being asked to serve in that role. With that comes the responsibility of making and sharing time, and appreciating the co-mentoring relationship that is a win-win for both of you. 

Momentum offers mentor matching as a free service to our community. If you are interested in learning more about the program and being paired with a mentor, click here for more information.

You Wanna Grow in Your Career… Do these 3 Things!

Barbara Mason is the CEO of Career Pathways, and a session presenter at Momentum’s Vision 2020 biennial conference

So many people say they want to grow in their career.  I can understand that because who wants to do the same thing the same way in the same position for the same company for the same 40 years? No one! So, I get it…it’s reasonable to desire growth in your career.

Well, I want to give you 3 ways you can accelerate the growth in your career:

1.      Network-yes, that’s right you must network. This is a class they should give you starting in high school. That’s how important it is. It is important that you stay connected to other people to learn new things, learn new people and learn about new career opportunities. In fact,  there are a large majority of jobs that are never posted, and you only find out about them through your network. Networks can be formal networks that you have at work with your boss,  or other leaders within your company. And networks can also be informal with people from your church, neighborhood or civic organizations you are a part of.

 

2.      Utilize Mentors-yes, everyone needs mentors in their careers. Mentors are helpful to be a sounding board, give you honest feedback and help you navigate your different career moves, twists and turns. There are several kinds of mentors you can have, and many people often have different ones for different things or areas they want to work on.

 

 

3.      Continuing Education-if you don’t want to be stagnant, then it’s crucial you invest in staying relevant in your field and continuing your growth and development. There are several free and paid options to stay abreast of your field and also to just personally sharpen the areas where you need help. Think about taking free classes at your local library, local universities or at work. Also, consider getting certifications or joining professional organizations related to the field you are in.

These 3 strategies will help you stay on a trajectory of growth in your career and ensure you do not cultivate complacency and stagnation.

 

Power Up! Summer Intern Event Was High Energy

Summer is a time for students, and this year Momentum teamed up with Alabama Power to host a half-day of professional development, designed especially for college student interns.

The day got started with a four-person panel featuring senior-level women from Alabama Power, Protective Life, and Regions Bank. Following the panel, Momentum alumnae and managers from Southern Company hosted round-table discussions on ten different topics, such as negotiation, work-life management, and career progression.

The event was the brainchild of Giuli Biondi Williams, campus recruiter for Southern Company. She approached Momentum about partnering for the event. Momentum decided to incorporate the idea into the quarterly Momentum Leadership Series.

With the combined resources of Alabama Power and the Momentum alumnae network on the event logistics, such as the event space, speakers, content, marketing and registration came together in just a under a month. All 120 seats filled in just two weeks. Our future leaders are clearly ready to jump-start their careers! Participants came from companies large and small, such as Protective Life,  Encompass Health, Regions Bank, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, UAB, Brasfield & Gorrie, Oakworth Capital,  Pack Health, and Peritus PR, just to name a few.

 

Thanks to the generous support of Alabama Power and all of Momentum’s program sponsors, there was no cost to attend the event.

Event organizers have already received great feedback from participants:

“Friday’s professional development event was amazing. Thank you for working with Guili to make it possible. I love the mission of Momentum and the intentional investment in women. My favorite part was getting to hear from the panel of women and then hearing interns ask in depth questions. I am always excited for new opportunities to network and I look forward to future events with Momentum.”

“This event was a great professional development opportunity as well as a great networking opportunity. I’m so thankful I got to meet so many women who have the same aspirations as I do!”

“I loved the panel and the panelists! From a college-aged, about-to-graduate-and-start-her-career, female intern, I thought it was very interesting and noteworthy to listen to other female leaders that have been working for a long time who had advice and stories to give. Listening to real workplace advice from real leaders is inspiring!”

While we can’t recreate the entire event in blog format, we can dedicate the next few posts to covering the most popular topics at the event. All of the topics are relevant at all career levels, so feel free to share and comment.

Here’s to a fun and productive summer.

The Leadership Challenge

Each year when our executive leadership class graduates, we throw down the leadership challenge:

With the leadership skills you’ve honed, the network you’ve established, and the increasing influence you’ve gained as a Momentum graduate, how will you create positive impact?

With their graduation, Momentum’s Class 15 is prepared to take on bigger, bolder challenges at work, at home, and in the community. Our hope is that they have a renewed sense of excitement about what they can accomplish. May their experience in Momentum remind them of their potential while reaffirming who they have already become.

We are all familiar with the expression “to whom much is given, much is expected.” So we ask of leaders everywhere, how do you put your leadership to work outside of immediate responsibilities for career and family? Where will you invest your time and money? How will you use your life lessons, your network, your influence to solve new challenges and pay it forward? Be creative. Find something that suits your passion, whether that’s within your organization, a non-profit, or something in a community initiative that hits close to home.

Leaders are busy people. Many people ask for their time. Yet the really accomplished leaders always find ways to align their passions, abilities, strengths, and schedules to do more. If you haven’t quite found the “more” that you want to do, here are some ideas to get started.

1. Form a Women’s Resource Group at your office. Women must lift, support, encourage, and learn from each other if we want to be our best selves. Women’s Resource Groups create a safe space to ask questions and share experiences that can be difficult to discuss in mixed company.

2. Adopt a mentee. Find someone who you can support and guide through the ups and downs of working life. You might just be surprised to see how you also benefit from the experience. Your relationship can be a short or long one. Boundaries are really important, so spell out the guidelines. If you are unsure how to go about finding a mentee, Momentum can help.

3. Volunteer with a nonprofit that supports women. Momentum can introduce you to a number of “mission partners” right here in Alabama who would value your time and experience.

Great leaders know that as they add things to their plate, they also have to let go of some things. Taking on a bold new project or a even a small volunteer opportunity is a great time to take inventory of your time and get rid of anything that zaps your energy or wastes your talent. Refill the space with something service-oriented that aligns with your passion, and you’re sure to feel a net gain in self-worth!

Women’s History Month

Today marks the first day of Women’s History Month. I have actually been asked by my own son why we need a whole month dedicated to women’s history or black history? Why don’t we just have a history month? Deep breaths. “We celebrate women’s history month and black history month because history, as we have learned it, is white male. It is written by white males and documents the achievements of white males. The contributions of minorities like black people and all women, who often achieved great things despite their repression, are rarely noted or celebrated. Having a dedicated history month helps to rectify that.” He seemed satisfied enough with that answer.

During the month of March we’ll post on the achievements of women, particularly right here in Alabama. At each biennial Momentum conference, we recognize women leaders who have made a significant contribution to community, business, culture or politics. The 2018 awards were held this past Wednesday and honored six new women with a Woman of Impact award. You can meet the new honorees, and each of our past honorees, here.

Last year we interviewed five of our sixteen honorees to get their stories and advice on film. Here are a few inspiring clips from that project.

 

 

Celebrating Careers of Women of Color

In honor of black history month, and on the cusp of women’s history month, we salute the women who overcome a long history of bias, prejudice, and discrimination to succeed in their careers. According to a 2015 study by the Center for American Progress, a stunning 70% of mothers in black families are the main bread-winner for their families (compared to 24.7% of white mothers and 40.5% of Latina mothers.) At the same time, black women experience a wider pay gap than white women compared to white men (black women earn 63% of when compared to white men, where white women earn 75% of what white men earn.)

To level the playing field, much has to be done to raise awareness and train employers on the gaps that exist. Those cultural shifts can take a long time. Updating workplace policy is the other piece in the engine of progress. Ensuring that employees have access to paid sick leave and family leave has shown to increase participation in the labor force and reduce reliance on public assistance for women who still carry most of the burden of caring for children and aging parents. We also need employers to regularly educate management on unconscious bias in hiring, managing and promoting minorities.

In the 2017 Women in the Workplace report from McKinsey and the Lean In organization, women of color are the most underrepresented group in the corporate pipeline. The study asserts that gender and race are inseparable, and that companies need to dig deeper into the experiences of women of color when shaping their unconscious bias training and employee management policies.

Rosilyn Houston, BBVA Compass

Rosilyn Houston is Senior Executive VP and Chief Talent & Cultural Executive for BBVA Compass and a Momentum alumna. She had these thoughts to share for this post:

“The stats McKinsey recently released are undeniable truths. Now that we know the facts what are we going to do about it to bring about change? Black women have to jump multiple hurdles and run through walls that may not exist for non-blacks as we face both unconscious and conscious bias in the workplace. 

This is not just a black woman challenge, it is a challenge for all of us. Just as we need white men to be interested in gender equity in high places in our organizations, we need all men and women to recognize the struggles of women from all cultures and do some things differently. 

I propose the following:

1) Hire a talented and qualified black woman to lead on your immediate team. 
2) Mentor and/or sponsor a black woman leader.
3) Advocate for and introduce a talented black woman leader to your network. 

All talented and hardworking women deserve the opportunity to bring her best into the workplace and to impact an organization’s bottom line. Black women need the support and opportunity to work on high risk projects, be exposed to key leaders, and mentorship. In my opinion, working together to take tangible steps to change the status quo is what we need to to close the gap and walk the talk.”

Deb Grimes, UAB

Working women of color especially benefit from the support of other women to embrace who they are. Momentum alumna Deb Grimes, Chief Diversity Officer at UAB, offers this advice: “Being a women of color is not about comparing yourself to others, it’s about focusing on your uniqueness and encouraging others to do the same. Always remember, you are too awesome to just fit in…dare to be different!”

The upcoming Momentum leadership conference is focused on the theme “Better Together, Uniting Leaders.” To make real progress toward workplaces that reflect the diversity of the population, we have to come together to champion the advantages. We need men to support the advancement of women. We need white women to support the advancement of black women. We need black women support the advancement of Latina women. We all need to triple-check our unconscious bias and commit to supporting top talent in leadership roles.

 

Battling Slow Burn

I recently visited with a woman I mentor from time to time. She has been in the same department within the same industry for more than ten years now, but only three of those with her current employer. While she still likes her job, and her employer, the current job market is tempting her to make a change. In the end I believe she is experiencing the “slow burn”–the kind of burnout that happens when you fall into a rut and just grind away there for weeks, then months, then years. In many cases the slow burn can be rekindled into a fire in the belly, or at least a vibrant flame, without leaving your employer. Here are a few suggestions I gave my mentee:

  1. Learn a new skill. If you work in the IT department on the database side, maybe you want to try your hand at training end users or designing web interfaces. You are very likely to pick up new ideas and meet new people along the way. Trying something new that enhances your skill set can give you new enthusiasm and make you more valuable at work.
  2. Change up your work environment and daily routine. Think through the changes first and make a plan. Share your plan with your colleagues. Then set a date for the big “change day” and make it all happen at once, like the big reveal. Move your furniture, buy new accessories, get a stand up desk shelf, bring in art you like, invest in a set of herbal teas, come in an hour early and leave an hour early, commit to a walk outside every day at 3:05 pm and take a picture of something interesting you see…these are all just examples of easy changes we can make to our every day environment to give our biorhythms a little shuffle-ball-change.
  3. Rally for a cause. When you have reached a level of comfort and security in your job, reinvigorating our sense of accomplishment may come from outside the workplace. Maybe you believe strongly in workplace diversity, but your job has nothing to do with HR. Think about finding a local nonprofit that advocates for diversity and find out how you can get involved. Once you have some experience and some connections to the cause, you can bring it back to HR and executive leadership and pitch a few changes for the organization. Maybe they get implemented and maybe they don’t, but you are still making a difference through your advocacy outside the workplace, and earn respect from within your organization for going the extra mile for something you believe in.

Burnout can come in many forms, and there are many ways to combat it. HR Consultant Dawn Burke will share her top tips to fight burnout at the Health and Wellness session during the upcoming Momentum conference. We’ll invite her to share those thoughts on this blog soon after the conference, so watch for it!

(photo iStock)