Ellevate San Diego Event: The Female Mentoring Experience

This was my first time speaking on a panel!

Ellevate Network San Diego’s Women Mentors: Why You Need One & How You Can Be One – The Female Mentoring Experience event was a recap of the 6-month mentoring program many of the members had recently completed through the ion Learning software platform (formerly Mentor Method). Ion Learning’s CEO, Shavon Lindley, moderated the event at the Women’s Museum of California.

The featured mentors were:

  • Jessica Hornbeck, Founder of Big Picture Bookkeeping, a dynamic leader and seasoned entrepreneur with more than twenty years of experience in Corporate Banking, Non-Profit, and Small Business.
  • Karin Slaughter, Vice President of Operations at Zurple/Z57, a web presence and online marketing firm with annual revenues of $18M. She is a proactive, innovative, and cross-functional leader equipped with almost 20 years of achievement and demonstrated success in Business Process Assessment and Automation, Change Strategy, Enterprise Business System integration, e-commerce product development and Customer Service Management.

Featured mentees were:

  • Myself (Jen Bergren), Marketing Lead for Ellevate Network’s San Diego Chapter and HubSpot Marketing Technologist for Chief Martech Officer, a woman-owned remote marketing agency hyper-focused on the HubSpot platform. Jessica was my mentor for the program. I started this program while I was finishing my MBA and through the beginning of my current job.
  • Joanne Chen, Organization Development Specialist/ Certified Professional Coach at the Academy for Professional Excellence. Karin was her mentor for the program. Joanne started this program when she was interviewing for her current job so it was very timely.

Each mentor was assigned 2-3 mentees after an Ellevate event in Fall 2018 that matched the goals and interests of mentees and mentors, similar to speed dating for finding mentors. The software had one module of content per month on different topics related to personal and professional development, with about one hour of homework to complete and questions to think about and talk about during the one-hour group meetings between mentors and mentees each month, either virtual meetings or in-person meetings. The guided content and suggested questions were helpful for having good conversations, which helped eliminate one of the common problems of casual mentorship when the mentee doesn’t have questions of topics to discuss prepared for their mentor (possibly wasting their valuable time or causing mentees to just not contact them at all).

The first month was about owning your purpose. This is deciding what you want in life. What are your core values? How do those core values align to the work that you’re doing every day and your company’s values? And how can you spend more time on things that you love?

How has it been helpful for you to discover or even maybe rediscover your top five values? Has that helped you live or work differently? And what tools do you use now to help keep you on track to keep you aligned with your values?

I said, “I thought it was helpful to spend time thinking about my current values, because at the beginning of this mentoring program I was finishing my last few months of grad school and looking for a job. So values were really helpful for me to consider as I was applying to jobs, determining if the job would be a good fit or if that job might make me miserable long term.” 

“As for living/working differently, Keeping those values in mind helps prioritize what I’m spending my time on, making sure it is things that align with my values and not just urgent tasks all the time. The program pointed out that knowing our values make decision making easier, and anything that makes decision making easier is a good thing!” I said.

“As far as tools go, the program has an exercise where we listed the main things we were spending time our on, and we assigned a percentage to how well those projects align with our values – seeing those numbers written out was helpful. Another tool I use is from another Ellevate speaker, Talonya Geary’s masterclass where we drew posters with illustrations of things related to values such as purpose and goals, that is on my wall next to my desk so I can see it every day as a tool. So basically, writing your values down in some way and seeing them often is a helpful tool,” I said.

Shavon said, “What we found is that some people may have an idea of what your core values are, but to actually do an exercise to write them down and say, these are my top five values, that is a different story. And then to do that next layer, like you did, write out all the things that you’re working on right now personally and professionally, and compare if these align at all to my values? What’s the percentage of time that you’re spending on things that are aligned? And what’s fascinating is that, when we survey participants,  over 60-80% of people are working on projects at work that are not aligned with what their core values are. And so when you think about why are people feeling overwhelmed, stressed, anxiety, or frustrated, a lot of those are signs and signals that you’re working outside of your values. Now, at the same time, is it really possible that you can spend 100% of your time on things that you love? No. One, I think it’s a goal to spend it ideally 80% of your time on things that you love, if you can. There’s always going to be parts of your job that are not fun to do. So doing the exercise helps you see where there’s an alignment and then seeing is it possible to either delegate or move off of things that might be out of alignment. That might take some time. But it’s a worthwhile exercise to know where to start.

How does this exercise ladder up to identifying and honing your purpose? 

Shavon said, “Your values are what you are, who you are, at the core, and are the things that are going to drive you every day. So if you’re going to be working on projects that are aligned, that is what your purpose should be. So knowing what you want, and why, aligns you into your purpose.”

Joanne said, “I was able to go through the exercise and rediscover some of the values I have, and also to match it to some of my organization’s values. So I was able to match to see they’re aligned.  I’m a huge learner, and this organization really values learning. We also value the Strengths Finder and when you take the assessment, you’ll get your top five strengths. So our organization uses that, it’s a great tool. And in terms of the connection between values and your purpose, one exercise I like to do with my coaching clients is to think about a couple of the stories that illustrate the high points in their lives. So then you can do that for yourself. You can write about your three top highlights in your life, and then go through and pick out keywords that you said. Maybe communication comes up a lot, so communication is a top value. Maybe family comes up a lot. So you write down all these values, and then when you work on your why, your purpose for being, you can take a look at the values. And then the statement you can write about why are we doing this, to achieve a goal or purpose so that something bigger could come out of it. It’s like a goal statement that we’ve used to help people come up with your life purpose.”

Tell me about how maybe your purpose has evolved or been redefined throughout this process. Do you think more about the impact you’d like to make for anyone? What have you done to advance your purpose? 

Jessica said, “I’ve been going through a lot of changes, as a lot of us have. I’m in my early 40s, and really trying to re-prioritize life. But this program came at such a time that I wasn’t able to really verbalize or create structure around the growth that I needed. So I found this to really be a platform for me to own those things that are holding me back from living my best life, from making the most impact.”

“As far as the value that is created, for me, I found that it forced me to sit down with a value exercise. I’ve always been really driven and the conclusion of, ‘hey, my value is making money and being successful,’ that’s so superficial, it’s not really who I’m about, at the end of the day. I want to make impact,  my family’s top priority, so going through this really forced me to restructure my approach. Worries, anything that doesn’t fit in that, on a daily basis, I’m checking with myself. And if something is not happening, I’m no longer feeling anxiety about it. So I have more going on, and time slow down with it. So I’m a little calmer, I feel more in the driver’s seat and I was able to step back and have this better awareness of if everything the way that it is making me feel like crap, I can say this or do this,” she said.

Jessica said, “With regards to owning my own stuff, for those of you that don’t know me, I’m very vocal about this. I have had a very difficult childhood upbringing, I am a survivor of abuse and I was very disadvantaged financially growing up. So I’ve had to put my head down in this world and push really hard to make something of myself. I don’t want to give too much away,  one of the other questions is going to touch on that. But it’s allowed me to slap myself in the face and be like,’ I gotta really own all of it.’  It’s not okay that  it is 90% there. And because I’m having a bad day, or tired, and snapping at my child, that’s not a good excuse. It’s forced me to really step up. That’s helping me professionally, it’s helping me among my tribe, it’s really helping me with my personal relationships in my marriage, dealing with my daughter. It all leaves me feeling gratitude in such a way that I never felt before. And I think that ends up creating or just being more in the flow, where it feels a little easier.”

“As far as the timing of my purpose, I always had in the back of my mind,  down the road, once work is good and I know my team’s got it, that I want to help disadvantaged kids. I want to help kids that have been beaten up. And I want to help them think and ‘you know what, I’m going to leave.’ I thought maybe in my 50s or 60s that I’d have that spare time. I’m going through all this, and I thought it’s never going to the right time, so I’m just gonna do it. So I joined Hera Hub, which is another wonderful women’s organization. I’ve always wanted to write a book about my experience, but not so much to share where I’ve been, to sort of create that connection, like there’s someone else that’s got you. But I want to create somewhat of a manual, ‘this is how you get yourself out of the shit.’ Even if you’re a kid, this is a practical plan. So I started writing a book last week. And it’s weird, because I’m scared and nervous. I’m just going to do it every week, sit down for a few hours, and who knows what that’s going to lead to. I’m really grateful that I might be able to make an impact sooner than later. But it requires jumping in,” Jessica said.

Shavon said, “The second pillar is owning your voice. So once you know your purpose, now it’s knowing when to speak up, when to listen, and understanding what your role is. Sometimes it’s a time where you have to speak up a lot. Sometimes it’s a time where maybe you can be passive and just listen, because there’s not an outcome you have to live with. Then understanding where your role is and knowing how to practice that.

Karin, tell me about any specific emotions or obstacles you had to work through to feel like you are owning your voice? What’s been going on for you, that you can share?

“I actually am vice president of operations for two different business units, that handle marketing and online presence for web for real estate agents. And I was partnering with another leader. We’re co-running the company, we’re fantastic friends, I love him to death. We actually have 13 different business units. And we had reorganized what we’re doing as an organization, we split it into separate businesses instead of separate business units, focused on agents or focused on brokers. And in that reorganization, my counterpart Jack received this fantastic promotion to run the agent side of the business. And my boss talked to me about it, and was like, ‘Karen, Jack’s gonna do this and it’s totally the right fit. You’re going to report to Jack.’ And that was hard. It was a lump in the throat, this kind of goes into owning your emotion. I’m having this conversation with my boss, and he runs all 13 business units as a general manager, I’d like to give feedback. But I think I need to take a minute to think about it. I’m this strong, aggressive woman in my job every day, and I thought I was just gonna bawl right there. It was not easy. That’s part of what we get out of the owning your emotions modules is being able to say, ‘I need to regroup,’ for you to collect yourself, so you can have [emotions] but do not have to respond in them,” Karin said.

“What that led to is kind of the owning your voice part of it. Afterward, I composed myself and sent an email out to a couple of people and had a conversation with my best friend and counterpart, Jack. I said, ‘Dude, I don’t want to work for you.’ And it’s fine, it has nothing to do with you. But here’s where my job is, my job is in these 13 business units. There needs to be this operations kind of role that tells what we should be doing in building systems so that we have cost-effective measures across all the business units. And we do all these different things so that every one of these companies has some systems in place, and we can be more effective and more unified. And he said that makes sense. But the job doesn’t exist. I said this is the job I need, though. Fast forward six months, I’ve worked hard, I’ve volunteered for all the extra stuff, I’ve been the person who picks up whatever we need to. And this week, they created that role,” she said.

“The owning your voice part of that is knowing when you should speak up and when you need to be quiet. I could have just said, ‘I got it, jack deserves this. He is this charismatic guy. You’ve met jack. He’s fantastic.’ And he was totally the right person to run this business that impacts millions of real estate agents.No question about that. And if I just said, ‘That’s good enough,’ and hadn’t said that this isn’t good enough for me, owning my voice was saying this is what I have to do, it is I think that’s really important.  It’s really that part of not being satisfied, being respectful, but not expecting things, not feeling entitled as part of it. You have to work for it every single day. And I think that was kind of the big owning your voice part for me,” Karin said.

Shavon said, “It seems like you are more capable of communicating effectively now, what you want and what you need. Have you seen that now, not that you didn’t already have confidence before, but now it’s at a new level? So how have you seen that impact the way you lead or how you get things done? Maybe there’s a big agenda that you want to get across at an organization, how do you get your business objectives across now for big things that you want done in the company?

Karin said, “I think that that’s the hard part of it. So when I think about this role, there are different leaders in each one of these organizations, these 13 organizations. I’m going to need to pick their brains and find out what’s working, what’s not working, and make recommendations that can work across all the business units. And what I’ve gotten out of that is how to have a respectful conversation with somebody and a collaborative conversation with somebody that I can then say, ‘Great, so Joanne, here’s what I think we need to do. And I’d love your input and how we get there.’ I’m very much listening. I say, this is what we do, I can see 10 steps ahead and know what we need to do. And you have to give people a chance to get there, so that listening and pausing and giving somebody else the chance to figure it out themselves is something I think is important in this role. And I got it.”

Anybody else have any feedback from owning your voice that you’d like to share?

Joanne said, “I’m from Taiwan originally, and how I was brought up was that I was taught to always work very, very hard and to not rock the boat. So in terms of only my voice speaking up, it’s something that I’ve been working my entire life. It’s been a really difficult journey. I was really good about saying yes, I was good about saying yes to opportunities, to volunteering, to projects. So I would find myself burning out a lot, because I didn’t know what to say no to. I was afraid to say no. I was afraid that people would not like me. So learning to speak about work, it took forever. But one thing I realized in this module is that if you don’t speak up, when you have something to say, because of your silence, basically you’re agreeing to whatever is presented in front of you. So you have to live with whatever consequences that happen. It’s your responsibility to speak up to at least voice whatever this idea that you have, whether it’s brilliant nor not, it is your responsibility to voice it. Put it out there, and then people they can accept it, not accept it, challenge it, change it, collaborate with you on it or not.”

“And sometimes what you said about listening, about being patient once you speak up, people may not accept idea right away. But they could down the road. So in terms of speaking up, it’s all about persistence. Follow up with your idea. And I found even at my current job, there are times where I present an idea. And then people kind of talk about how they want to do something else. Then 30 minutes or an hour later, they’ll be like, ‘Yeah, this idea.’ And I’m thinking, ‘Wait, an hour ago…” So just have that courage to speak up, and have the patience to wait, have the persistence to keep it up, work with others, and interest speaking up. It takes time for people to get to know you, to trust you. So before you have that influence, you have to build relationships with your voice. So it’s all a process, but it’s worth it,” she said.

The third pillar that all successful female leaders have in common is owning your emotions, managing sensitivity and reactivity. But also knowing how to pick up the pieces when we do overreact, because our personal life is going to happen, and not have that hold us back or make us have awkward conversations with people because we don’t know how to bring up something that happened where maybe we overreacted.

What are some of the strategies that you’ve utilized to help you manage and maybe not suppress those emotions? 

Jessica said, “I punch and kick things and people. I do self-defense training so that helps a lot in getting my general fire out. So I’m not like a lunatic. And then just simple tactics like if I’m having a really crappy day, you got to get that out. So I’m going to go in a closet, maybe scream into a pillow. If my daughter is making me insane, I try to stop and realize I need to go to another room for two minutes. I’m going to do that. So I come back as good mommy. If I’m having a conversation and the person’s making me mad or sad, or they’re being just a bad person, I just try to have that voice in the back of my head talk to me and be like, ‘This is what you’re feeling. Why?’ It kind of brings me to my center. Whatever tactics where you’ve got to get it out somehow, don’t stop it back in, because it’ll come back out on the highway with all the other crazy drivers.”

How do you feel differently about becoming emotional at work?  How were you prior to the program? And how has that evolved for you over time?

Joanne said, “I feel like my workplace is pretty accepting of every one of us. So I feel pretty comfortable now, though not at the very beginning, voicing my concerns, and maybe show a little bit more vulnerability. But in the beginning, I had won the role, so I wanted to prove myself. I had more of an armor in terms of trying to be a high performer and not want to be weak. But in terms of getting mentoring from you from Karen, and also going through the modules, I feel like it’s okay to be honest. And it’s better to be honest and share your concerns earlier, as opposed to letting things build up. And then emotion, which is my exploit, so that’s something I learned that it’s okay to take a time out, you’d like an emotional time out, and then maybe write down or think about what I actually want to say to my manager and prepare for the conversation. Scheduled time to talk or just asking, it could be a spontaneous meeting, just making sure that I prepare for that meeting, and then just giving myself the opportunity to present whatever concern, and being okay with not being perfect. Being okay with breaking down. Being okay to have that fear in your voice, that nervousness is okay. As opposed to trying to push it down like I’m totally okay, I’m totally in control. No, you’re not.” 

“So I feel like having gone through the program, I feel more strengthened as a woman and more accepting of my emotions in terms of expressing them. It also helps to be at a pretty supportive workplace. I also know you when you were questioning yourself, thinking ‘Am I crazy?’ Reach out and say, ‘Hey, this is what’s happening, I think the perception is …’ and then walking yourself off the ledge and having a mentor and your group to troubleshoot and work through what’s real and what’s not. Am I overthinking this? Am I not like all those thoughts that go through our brain and aren’t in a safe place? So before you go and talk to your manager about one of the things I wanted to bring up later, you might get a chance. There was one meeting where I was feeling like I was presenting these ideas and I was not getting through.  Remember, I was talking about being patient and seeing what happens. So I did get emotional. And I called Karin, and she listened to me. She gave her perspective on things better, and things actually turned out. Things turned out okay. And other things I thought would happen actually happened,” she said.

How, as a mentor and as a leader in your organization, have you ever had a kind of surprise attack? When you’re not expecting it to come? And what have you done to help defuse that situation?

Karin said, “Frequently. You have people who have different personalities, communication styles and everything. People sometimes don’t get along and you have to deal them on a regular basis. I had a situation about three months ago, where one of my directors said someone was not performing, and just wanted to rant about this problem happening, everything that was wrong. And from my point of view, it was first a thinking opportunity. But then in that mentoring and critiquing kind of way, it’s not trying to tell them where the solution is, but to help them get there themselves. So I tend to use our questions about it, like what is the real issue? Can you boil it down to one sentence? After they’ve got through that, you’re helping them on finding what the real issue is. What is the challenge? So someone doesn’t respond to your emails fast enough, and it causes this challenge. Got it. Now, what have we done so far? And they list all those things. What else can be done? What you’re doing is just asking them the same things you would go through in your own mind, helping them get there themselves. Taking them off of this surprise, I’m so angry, and the world’s falling apart, too. How do we help them get there themselves. Ask,’Now, what will you do? And then what else?’ I love [asking] ‘what else?’ When you say ‘What else?’ It’s like? saying, ‘Well, this is great. Let’s move forward until there’s no more what else questions to ask.’ And I think that’s what I want to do, is how do we just take the emotion out of that surprise attack.”

The fourth pillar is called feedback and critique. So this is about seeking, receiving and giving criticism on daily. And what does that look like?

I said, “My attitude towards feedback has improved. I’ve read about how to receive feedback before but hadn’t really had a discussion about it like we did with our mentoring group, that really helped the lessons sink in, realizing that feedback is a gift, and like any gift, you should thank people for giving you negative or positive feedback. I learned it’s important to reframe feedback as direction to help myself improve – improving in general is something I am always striving for, so thinking of any feedback as coaching to get better at something is helpful.”

“As for digging deeper, I’m consciously trying not to get defensive, though that is my immediate instinct to criticism, I’m trying to thank people first instead that gives me a minute to pause and think.  For my career, I think being more conscious about how I respond to feedback has improved it, getting feedback not as scary or anxiety-producing so I will be asking for more feedback not only from bosses, but from coworkers, contractors, clients to learn problems with the process or product that may be easy to fix – I think we talked about this in our mentoring session, learning something simple to change that could easily improve the customer experience,” I said.

“One more thing – I would like to ask the audience for feedback afterward, this is my first speaking role in front of people like this. I don’t really like talking at all, I much prefer writing, so I’d love to improve faster by learning your feedback afterward,” I said.

Joanne said, “I remember specifically, in this model, us having a conversation around how you’ve learned a lot or read a lot about receiving feedback, but never learned skills about giving it, was that right? Or do you remember having this conversation and you sent me a whole bunch of links? To be honest, I had trouble with feedback in general. I found that even receiving positive feedback I had trouble with. And I think I’m getting better. The whole subject of giving and receiving feedback, whether it’s positive or not, it was a hot topic for me. That whole thing I talked about in the beginning, about how this program came at the right time of my life? Around the time we started this module, my manager came to me and said that we’ve had requests to do training on giving or receiving feedback. So I wanted to grow and be willing to do this.  I said I’m also learning about it in the module. Just in time learning, I really have to practice the skills, the tips that you’ve been teaching us, because I’d love to train this. So I did research and I was able to help create an E-learning course for my staff. I make sure I’ve been sharing all that. I had to present an in-person training at our staff meeting an facilitate practice sessions. I got to really practice giving and receiving feedback and learning that other people also have trouble receiving feedback, positive or negative. People, especially supervisors, they have trouble giving negative or constructive feedback. Everyone has their pain points. My organization is constantly getting people to give us feedback on things. So yes, I got positive feedback, I got constructive feedback, different word products, different meetings. And it’s not easy to receive constructive negative feedback, especially when you feel like you’ve been misunderstood. But you have to remember that if it is just one person giving you that feedback, you may want to take it with a grain of salt. But if you get the same feedback from multiple people, that you really have to pay attention to. What I’m learning at my organization is to have a perspective that any feedback could be useful, but really pay attention to feedback that comes up multiple times. You learn to discern what feedback applies to you. And if you’re not sure, talk to multiple people, talk to your mentors, make sure that you know this feedback is valid, because you may find the person may not know what’s been going on with you, right then. To really have perspective on the back end, that is a gift. Because basically the person gives you feedback, they are being vulnerable, to give you tips and taking time out of their lives to give you a valuable piece of information. So it is a gift that this person is giving to you and to receive it, they’re investing in you. They’re investing and they care enough about you to want to take the time to do that. Stepping out to do that, it took courage.”

“A tool that we created as an organization before the training, feel free to borrow the idea, was feedback cards, two-sided. One side says ‘hello, I would appreciate your feedback on…sincerely, your name.’ And the other side says, ‘thank you for your feedback.’ So when you’re ready to ask for feedback, or somebody just felt this a thank you card, it could be a note via email. So they’ll be like, ‘Oh my gosh, you’re giving me a gift.’ to write. I would say make it, make it fun,” Joanne said.

Tell me about how you developed a system for delivering feedback and would you share that with us? How does your feedback change, how has that evolved for you throughout this process?

Karin said, “It’s funny, a lot of the feedback that you want, when you want to give it somebody, you need to be constructive in how you’re providing that feedback. And it’s funny, at the same time as I was going through this program, I was reading a book called Radical Candor. How do you care deeply about the person that you’re communicating with, and if they understand the depth that you’re that you care for their success, that you can have a conversation that is sometimes a little more difficult? Be respectful in those conversations, but talk about how this is where I see that benefit for you. And I’m looking out for your best interest in this communication. What I found is that when you’re doing, a gift that you give, when you give that you get feedback, but you need to make sure that when you’re actually communicated, that you are clear about your intentions, and that you’re not misleading people through those intentions. You’re honest, and how you give honestly caring enough feedback every single time.”

The fifth pillar of leadership is owning complicated conversations and relationships, working with difficult people. How do we maintain our integrity when maybe others don’t share the same level of integrity as you do? How do we have conversations when potentially other people maybe do something that you might feel is offensive? Or make you feel excluded? How do we have conversations in a way that we can learn from one another versus making other people feel like they’re being attacked or on the defensive? A lot of times people can leverage certain techniques, such as silences or pauses as a response, to handle an environment where something felt offensive to you. So tell me more about how your skills have developed? Or when you witness exclusionary behavior or something that makes you feel offended? So how have you handled that?

Jessica said, “I’ve always been really comfortable with like confrontation, and giving them a silence if they’re completely out of line, or even telling them they are out of line. But now we’re moving gracefully from me just looking at them, giving them a hard look. Letting them know, using your tactics such as asking can I give you feedback. That way, off the job, you’re taking them away from that defensive posture, letting them know, this is what I heard, this is how I feel. And then also, which I wasn’t doing, giving them the benefit of the doubt. I might hear something sexist or offensive, and just by employing a tactic of giving them the benefit of the doubt, coming at them a little softer than I would normally would. Maybe they didn’t mean to come off that way. It’s my responsibility as a grown human being to let them know what I’m hearing, and then just stop and listen. It’s worked really well for me, in my personal relationships in defusing a potential argument about laundry or something ridiculous.  I think those types of tactics work. I think that idea has been one of the greatest things that’s changed not only the situations that I witness out in the world, but also with my husband when we get into arguments with one another. We need to give each other the benefit of the doubt that we were unaware that our actions, our behavior, we’re causing this effect on others. And so by coming to them and saying, ‘I don’t think this was their intention, but something you said made me feel a certain way, and I want to bring it up, because I don’t think they meant it.’ And then they’re like, ‘you know, can I share it with you? Can I can I give you that feedback?’ And then everyone’s like, ‘yes, please.’ ‘So when you said something, it made me feel excluded from that conversation. And I really wish you had gotten my opinion. And, and then I heard you make this comment. And I just wanted to know where that came from. This is how it felt.’ It’s a great skill with my spouse, we use that. I mean, he was the one that gives me the benefit of the doubt. We have to do this with grace, giving each other that grace. The benefit of the doubt is so important. It allows us to come to it not defensive, and not trying to attack you or saying you’re doing this wrong.”

“The biggest trick to this whole thing working is that you really can’t bring something up to someone unless you are wanting to do this. So until you’ve worked through in your head, asking is it possible that they didn’t mean this in some way, then you’re not ready to have that conversation. Maybe there’s someone else that can have that conversation. Because you have to get to that place,” she said.

I would love to know, from your perspective, how has this program, specifically speaking up, impacted you? Have you been able to have these uncomfortable conversations when you’re more introverted in nature?

I said, “The module had a lot of helpful info about uncomfortable, like a sexist comment type of uncomfortable, which I haven’t dealt with lately, thankfully. But since I don’t like talking, any kind of conversation is uncomfortable, especially about topics related to conflict, like someone doing something that is bothering me. Asking for help is also uncomfortable since one of my values is being really independent. I think this part of the program was at the same time as a negotiation class around where my final assignment had an uncomfortable conversation, a real-life negotiation for something we needed, which in my case was a small loan from my parents to get me through a few more months of job searching. That was difficult for all the emotions it brings up from being independent, my money mindset issues, etc. But I found out my parents were glad I talked to them about it and let them know that I did have a retirement account as a backup so they now worry less – point of the story is that while it gave me a lot of anxiety to think ahead to the conversation, and it was tough to have, afterward both parties felt a lot better. Which goes along with the helpful strategies in the module: get it out of the way, use a communication plan (key for me, planning), be clear, don’t vent, be positive, reflect on conversations you’re avoiding and schedule them now.” 

“Now I try to be more open every day about what’s going on so it doesn’t get to the point of needing an uncomfortable conversation and I’m not spending time ruminating every day about something or someone bothering me but avoiding it. I spent many years that way and I don’t recommend it,” I said.

Joanne said, “Being clear, being positive, not venting. And it said if you have any uncomfortable conversations that you’re going through in your head, have them right now. Don’t wait until the end of the day. So in terms of overall impacts on my career, I’ve been at my current organization for almost six months now. And in the six months, I was able to have uncomfortable, crucial conversations, I was able to get kudos from my manager, our CEO, and other people in an organization. And I feel like I’m just so fortunate to have been part of the program. I can get a lot of like emotional support, a lot of content tips, and just having conversations with Karen. And also Shavon conducts these Wednesday coaching calls, and I would be the only person showing up, so I’ve been getting private coaching. I just love talking to her and giving her updates on an issue. She would like to remind me that I’m doing okay, I’m doing better than okay, getting that support. So if you do decide to join the program, please show up to the coaching calls, because she has a lot of wisdom to share.”

The sixth module is called owning your evolution. This is about supporting and championing each other. So how do we stop moving up one by one? How do we collectively evolve? That’s really the final step and why this program is called Women Evolution. So you’re leveraging all of these skills and now it’s deciding what’s my personal responsibility? How am I going to inspire others and really create a legacy to be proud of? All of you are so committed to this organization and a part of Ellevate, just being here alone ties directly into this. So every single one of you already are being and have that support system. How are you leading by example today? Knowing you have mentees who look to you for guidance, and as a role model.

Jessica said, “Besides my activism here with Ellevate, I try to be as transparent and as real as possible. Raising a little girl, I am not looking to shelter her, I kind of let her explore and find her own way. I’m hoping that really suits her, I’m not trying to box her into anything. And I want to be as supportive as possible, as she finds her way. On the professional front, I try to be as candid and forthcoming as possible with my knowledge, my own development. I realized that it’s going to be a two-way conversation, of supporting each other with knowledge.  I hope that comes across to you, that I’m really open to receiving feedback and you pushing me to be better. I want everyone that I work with, not just in a professional capacity, to be engaged and want to be there. Because then they’re going to show up and bring their best selves, and we’re all going to grow together. So I just try to keep it open and honest and maintain this ongoing dialogue.”

Joanne said, “I see myself continuing to develop people, whether it is within my organization or in my coaching practice. And I also see myself restarting our mentoring program and my organization. So I see myself being a woman there. And of course, I’m involved with Ellevate, and for those who may see me volunteering as a mentor at some point. I’m jumping into another mentoring program with my training organization. It’s because I really believe in growing with other people, and helping other people and collaborating. I love to encourage everyone to seek support, whether with here or with Ellevate or some other place, because you don’t have to do it alone.”

Karin said, “One of the things that we did in this program that I felt the impact personally and in my interactions with both you and Andrea, we implemented a similar program for our office, and we are bringing this to groups of people every fall, we’re going to relaunch this program for everyone in our office so that we can see that same type of growth. A lot of the fundamentals in this in this program focus around women, but kind of affect everyone. When I think about how I can take what I got out of this, and how we evolve through this is, these types of programs need to be shared. And we need to make sure that if we’re getting value, we’re sharing that value with others. So our company’s launched with 25 people last month, they’re in the middle of their second month right now. Another batch of people will keep cycling people through this program so that everybody has the ability to be mentored, and grow into the mentor role in future cycles. Right. That it is how I feel we can pass that on.”

Shavon said this program is geared predominantly for those who identify as female, but they do have other programs and curriculum that use this leverage this model. Christina, working the camera, is co-founder and CEO of the organization. “Hashtag startup life,” Shavon said. The technology platform is designed to do this deep cultural change in large scale organizations. The program has assessments that people the participants complete in the beginning and at the end. They look at the cumulative results, seeing how women grow over time in these skill sets., and any areas that really had an impact and seeing how it impacted the organization. There was almost a 6% growth overall on all the lessons from beginning to end. The owning your purpose module had 23% increase that month.  The other big growth area was feeling like you have a strong support system at work. They also saw a 29% increase in engagement in the company they worked for over the six months, which is huge. The largest increase was a 57% increase in people seeing themselves working at your company in two years time, and then a 32% increase in recommending your company as a great resource. Companies will spend millions of dollars to do that. “We just created the opportunity, you all did the work, you are the ones that committed to this over the last six months. So I want to thank you for that,” Shavon said.

[And a question that we ran out of time to ask, but I wrote an answer for it so am including it here: What were the biggest benefits of having a mentor, during this program and beyond?

“Having a mentor gives me peace of mind from knowing I’ll always have support with tough questions in business and beyond, improving my confidence and willingness to take risks. Those are all things I know I need to improve so it’s great to know I have support, and another Ellevate member – Felicia Lyon (in the audience) has a blog that said mentors will help you foresee hurdles and potential opportunities that may not otherwise be obvious, which is great to know that someone’s looking out for me, which is what a mentor feels like. For this program in particular, I liked that the mentoring relationship had structure, it wasn’t just like asking someone to be your mentor out of the blue or in Linkedin message and then meeting up and not knowing what to talk about, which I think Shavon covered in our mentoring kickoff event as what not to do. Having the module content and questions to discuss were really a helpful starting point to mentoring relationships. For the beyond part of the question, I still consider Jessica one of my mentors and we may eventually move more into colleague territory, trading support and advice as well.]

Audience Questions

Did you find that would make it easier for you to receive negative feedback or feedback on things you could be better at, but more difficult for you to receive positive feedback? Or was it the same across the board? 

Joanne said, “It’s actually harder for me to receive negative or constructive feedback. Because I feel like in the past more, so I would feel like, ‘Oh, my gosh, I failed.’ Because I needed to be 100%, I didn’t do my job to the best of my ability because of a critique. But to me, it’s like a drop like a ball, like, ‘Oh, my gosh,’ and I found that, especially between positive and negative feedback, I wouldn’t need a lot of positive feedback to kind of balance one negative feedback.  I don’t think that’s unusual for people. If you really believe that you can do quality work, and you strive to do quality work. But you feel like I didn’t meet my impossible standard. I used to be a perfectionist, so I guess I’m a recovering perfectionist, almost recovering perfectionist, but that’s part of my journey, is to learn that I can do the best of my ability and it doesn’t have to be perfect. And that’s okay. But still not easy to receive negative feedback.”

As far as mindset, growth mindset, the curriculum of mentorship is something I personally am focusing on. What would you say would be one of the top things, mindset things you can do for yourself, like your morning routine and communicating with other people? What would be the one thing that stuck out to you for mindset?

Jessica said, “I would say meditate and get your calm, get to center, quiet all down. I try to do that at least once every day so it is not blocking me and maybe hindering me from progressing in my career.

My question is, there’s a curriculum and then meeting once a month, did you guys do more than once a month?

Jessica said, “So for the program, we stuck to that. But I think as things came up, we would all lean on each other for support. You know, a Jen asked some questions of me unrelated to the program while job hunting. And even putting together the agenda for this event, I kind of like waiting for things because I have a hard time like memorizing and sticking to the script. But Jen sort of redid the document, she’s like, in order to make this look more professional and branded and stronger, you actually have to have some of our speakers in mind for certain questions. And like, I wasn’t even looking at it that way. So the fact that I am now very open to this dialogue, it allowed me to learn something from her.”

Karin said, “It’s funny, the three of us I think only did one web session, everything every other time we met her in person. And the one time we were on the phone together. One of the other people with Andrea was having a personal challenge and going through and talked about a challenge he was experiencing. And one of the best things I got in this program was listening to Joanne say, ‘wait, but you did this, right? That’s a win.’ In the midst of all of these things that seemed like it was such a challenging scenario, there was one win and highlighting that win. And highlighting this was a good thing that happened and taking a second to just think about that and accept that and process that. Hearing you share that with Andrea was like, ‘how do we all take that step?’ And that was something that I learned from you that I love learning. So thank you. Thank you.

Joanne said, “I was thinking about your question about growth mindset, or what would be a tip and I was actually thinking about is very similar to what you’re saying, that whatever happens in your life, I will encourage you to just keep trying things, experiment, try things that you’re scared to do. Because I feel like everything, will contribute to your growth. You can learn from everything, so you can find the positive in everything. So in a way you think you failed, think about what you learned from that. Because I also feel like my own personal journey is everything I’ve done has led me to this point, there was no wasted time. I’m just learning so much from other people ,from all the things that happen.

Shavon said, “On the growth mindset side, I’m an avid, twice a day meditator and think about gratitude, and I’m just a positive person in general, that is just my disposition. But the thing that I had to learn the most, for me, I don’t know if this necessarily connects to a growth mindset. I think it does. But there’s this misconception, I believe that things have to be hard. Or it’s not that things don’t come so easy. Or if it’s not hard, it’s not worth it. And similarly as an entrepreneur. And so you have to like play hard ball and break that wall and hit that wall. And then you’re just frustrated at times. And what I had to realize was that those were signs that I wasn’t supposed to be doing that. Those were actually things we know are not right for you. But I was getting in my own way, whether it’s my ego, like, wanting to be right, realizing that this idea that I had doesn’t work. I didn’t want to believe it. When I started listening, and I started questioning, why something isn’t working, and started asking what am I trying to learn from this, then instead of being wrong, thinking what am I supposed to learn or pivot from? When things are right, things are clear, easy, and fast. I cannot tell you how we move at lightspeed as a company now. And it’s that mindset, whether that’s growth mindset, or I’m not sure, I think that that happens for everyone. When you’re in alignment, you fly. And when you’re in contention, something has to change, and recognize it’s your job to determine what it is, though. Ask the right questions and get feedback from other people. Be honest with yourself and try to check yourself. When we started as a company, not as a technology company, and as just we were using other technology platforms to offer our leadership development and mentoring programs, Walmart said yes to our platform. We were going through their security review, and the platform didn’t get approved. It was just soul crushing. I was also pregnant with kiddo number two. We had just built this brand and curriculum as well. I thought, I can’t take it anymore like, why isn’t this happening? Why am I hitting this wall? Walmart came back to us and said, ‘Look, we want to work with you. We love what you’ve built, we want this idea. We don’t care about the technology, come up with something new.’ So that confidence in us was great. So then it was like, ‘Okay, well, let’s go!’ Christina really led this ship. But she did an exhaustive search of every technology and everyone had a problem. And I had to get back to Walmart, we had two weeks, what are we going to do? She came to the office, and said we’re going to do this ourselves. We’re going to build our own technology platform that is as secure as Walmart needs it. That’s our particular methodology in a perfect linear learning system. And ever since then, we have been a rocket ship. So imagine feeling that five months pregnant at this time. I shared that with you because now we have pivot written on the board.”

Find upcoming Ellevate San Diego events, such as the next installment of this mentoring program starting Sept. 12, 2019!

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