Leadership Series: Crashing Through the Silicon Ceiling

00B1A9AE00000578-2861607-image-m-358_1417739645548
Image by dailymail.co.uk

Last summer, the Washington Post printed an article to confirm what Latinos in Silicon Valley already knew to be true – Latinos and other people of color are grossly underrepresented in the valley’s workforce, especially in management. The numbers are abysmal.

Intel leads the pack of tech giants where only 8% of its employees are Latino. That’s double the percentage of other major high-tech firms. Twitter is in the basement with only 2% of its workforce identifying as Latino. These statistics include all employees: tech, non-tech, management, etc. Latino managers, directors, and executives represent just a fraction of those employees.

The Post article goes on to describe how management points to the lack of qualified Latino candidates and an education system that isn’t providing a pipeline of talented people of color. This is a common response for organizations and institutions that claim that the problem exists with the talent pool, not hiring practices. Although still woefully inadequate, the rate of Latino college graduates is twice the percentage of employees in Silicon Valley.

So what gives?

According to the Washington Post, Valley executives are beginning to listen to the notion that there are “unconscious biases that have given preference to white men.” This is a great start. Along with those revelations, HR teams are well aware of the challenges to change the mindset of large institutions. As Latino college admission and graduation rates rise over time, there may be someday in the future when this isn’t an issue. It could be decades before the bias demons are exorcised

Unfortunately, today, it’s a major problem and current Latino professionals can’t afford to wait for society to catch up with the reality that there is a large pool of candidates already in the pipeline. The National Society of Hispanic MBAs alone has over 30,000 members in 40 chapters across the country, including Silicon Valley.

The good news is that Silicon Valley seems to be responding to the Washington Post article. Over the past year, companies like Facebook and LinkedIn have hosted events targeted at Latino professionals. The bad news is twofold. First, HR professionals have already said that tackling bias will take a long time. Second, these companies don’t know how to attract Latino talent. I’ll leave that issue for another blog post.

In the meantime, what are smart, talented, and ambitious Latino professionals to do?  Here are few tips that will get you started on your leadership journey:

  1. Work Hard

I’m not going to sugarcoat this. Getting ahead takes an enormous amount of effort, commitment, and perseverance. There’s no other way around it. All of the successful people I’ve ever encountered were passionate and dedicated to their craft. This can take a million hours a week or far less, it just depends how you manage your time. Just make sure to give it your all. A college education gets you to the front door. Hard work gets you to the corner office.

As I made my way up the corporate org chart, I was the first to raise my hand when upper management was looking for someone to take on an extra project. When the corporate office executives needed support for an initiative, I packed my bags and traveled throughout the country to lend a helping hand. Soon, I was on the radar for promotion from manager to director to vice president.

This strategy seems to fly in the face of corporate America’s newfound philosophy on work/home balance. Let me just say this: the hardest working employees get first crack at promotion. There are ways to balance family life and an ambitious career. My wife Sandra worked her way up the education administrator ranks while I moved toward the executive suite. Yet, we always made time for our family (I’ll leave that for another blog post too).

  1. Find a Mentor

Learning to master a craft from a successful person is the best education you’ll ever get. Former U.S. Secretary of State Condeleeza Rice once said that aspiring leaders should, “search for role models you can look up to and people who take an interest in your career.” In my career, the best mentors have been people who truly cared about my future. I’ve been blessed to have five men in my professional life that fulfilled that role.

Bob Williams, Percy Carr, Navarra Williams, Dave Walton, and Johnnie Giles have made an indelible imprint on my career. Bob, the manager at my first part-time job, was a master at team-building. Coach Carr is a hall-of-fame college basketball coach. I worked as his assistant in the late 80s and early 90s. He taught me the value of preparation and developing talent. Navarra, Dave, and Johnnie helped me understand the intense, yet delicate world of corporate politics.

The most valuable asset each of these men brought to me was a sincere interest in my growth and development as a leader. There are people like this in everyone’s life. You need to identify them and seek their guidance. One more piece of advice from Secretary Rice, “you don’t have to have mentors who look like you.” Just make sure that they genuinely care about your potential as a leader.

  1. Keep Learning

According to Pulitzer Prize historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, this concept is one of the ten qualities that made President Abraham Lincoln a great leader. Lincoln spent countless hours with generals in the White House and on the front lines of battle to better understand the science of warfare and the causes and effects of his decisions. He’s perhaps our nation’s greatest wartime president.

Make your personal development a priority. As a student of Goodwin’s theory, I’ve never hesitated at an opportunity to take advantage of leadership development. Among the many programs available to me, I studied community leadership as a senior fellow with the American Leadership Forum of Silicon Valley and corporate leadership with the Comcast Executive Leadership Forum. Today, I continue to learn from the talented people I encounter in my role as a leadership coach.

The most exciting thing about the Latino future is that it’s happening right now. There are many talented professionals in the pipeline today. While it appears that institutions are warming up to the facts about Latino talent, we need to take matters into our own hands until they catch up. Start your leadership journey by taking positive steps toward crashing through the Silicon ceiling!

*****************

Are you ready to make your next career move?

REGISTER TODAY for the July 16th  ESEReport.com Leadership Series “Foundations of Leadership Workshop.” Please contact Eddie directly with any questions at eddie.m.garcia@comcast.net. This will be an inspiring day of learning!

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/foundations-of-leadership-workshop-tickets-24943731372

To read the full Washington Post article, click here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/silicon-valley-struggles-to-hack-its-diversity-problem/2015/07/16/0b0144be-2053-11e5-84d5-eb37ee8eaa61_story.html

Advertisements

Leadership Series: Just Believe!

Sticky Believe In Yourself
Image by performersheart.com

Last month at Modesto Junior College, I addressed over 100 Latina college administrators, educators, and students as the opening keynote speaker for the 29th Annual Latina Leadership Network of the California Community Colleges. As I prepared for the speech, butterflies fluttered in my stomach.  I always get nervous before stepping out of my comfort zone. I had never spoken to a group made up exclusively of women.

In the days leading up to the conference, my usual “pre-game” nerves evolved into outright self-doubt. All kinds of questions swirled in my mind, slowing down my preparation process. What did I have to offer to smart and ambitious women? Why did the organizers invite me to open this prestigious event? Was I even qualified to speak at an academic gathering?

Does this sound familiar?

It’s natural for anyone to be a little anxious prior to making a big presentation at work or preparing for something new. Adrenalin generated by those feelings usually helps people focus on getting the job done. We Latinos have an additional burden layered on top of the normal sensation of excitement. The crippling effect of self-doubt leads to questioning our worth, which ultimately can keep us from taking chances.

Why does this happen? The answer is surely complex. Part of it might be our own cultural aversion to taking professional risks. George Lopez describes this phenomenon in his hilarious “Team Leader” bit. Society also has a way of making Latinos, even those in leadership positions, appear a cut below non-Latino colleagues.

The good news is that this sense of inadequacy can be overcome. The solution is for you to just believe in yourself. Sounds easy, huh? Unfortunately, confronting the fear of taking risks and fighting negative stereotypes can be discouraging and tiring. Thus, implementation of the remedy can be challenging due to these hurdles.

I don’t mean the “fake it ‘til you make it” philosophy that seems to be all the rage today. That doesn’t work. You should never fake it! By definition, that means that you’re not qualified for the position you seek. I’m talking about taking stock of your successes and confirming that you’re the real (not fake) deal.

I’m currently working with a Latina mid-level executive who’s contemplating a career change. She has extensive experience in her field and has progressively advanced to higher leadership roles in the organization. Her teams have earned several industry awards in addition to the individual recognition mementos that gather on her desk.

She has three options in front of her: (1) make a lateral move into management at her organization’s headquarters, (2) seek advancement opportunities within the industry, or (3) stay in her current role. I’ve advised her to take a serious look at options #2 and #1, in that order. Her initial response was to question her own qualifications and preparedness.

Seriously…

We did a simple exercise to get that absurd notion out of her mind. She dusted off her resume (which was a decade old) and started listing her professional accomplishments and accolades. When the dust settled, she had an amazing resume that impressed even herself! She had been so busy being successful that she didn’t realize the extent of her experience and preparation.

Once it was on paper, I could see in her eyes that she truly believed in herself. She’s still nervous about the possibility of taking a leap. The natural sense of anxiety that comes with stretching one’s boundaries will still linger as she thinks about her next move. At least she now believes that she has what it takes to achieve her goals.

The moral of this story is to block out influences that are barriers to your success, obstacles like fear of taking professional risks and the negative effect society has on our tendency toward self-doubt. These are powerful forces in keeping Latinas and Latinos from striving to occupy the corner office.

As Latino professionals, we’ve educated ourselves and work hard. We need to learn how to take stock of accomplishments to remind ourselves that we have professional value and worth. This will give us the confidence needed to make the next career move.

Back at Modesto Junior College, as the conference chair introduced me, I reflected on three decades of leadership experience. I had once spoken to over 1,500 politicians at the National Association of Latino Elected Officials in Dallas, Texas, and addressed thousands of people at San Jose State University Chicano Commencement and high school graduation ceremonies.

Stepping up to the podium, I started out by talking about how proud I was of my wife Sandra, an outstanding elementary school principal, and my two daughters in college. Since they’re strong women, I assured the audience, I was totally comfortable in a room of talented and successful Latinas. When the room erupted in applause, I settled down. It was an inspiring evening for me.

Following my own advice, I overcame the self-doubt that had consumed me earlier in the week. Once I took stock of my career, I was able to believe in myself again. You can do this too.

***************

Are you thinking about the next move in your career? You should attend my workshop this summer:

ESEReport.com Leadership Series presents

Foundations of Leadership Workshop

Saturday, July 16, 2016

By sharing engaging stories and colorful anecdotes from 30 years of leadership experience in business, politics, education, and community service, my fast-paced and interactive workshop will help you achieve your professional goals!

 Workshop participants will learn how to:

  • Become a Leader, Not Just a Manager
  • Harness the Power of Productive Relationships
  • Communicate for Success

Click here for tickets and more information: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/foundations-of-leadership-workshop-tickets-24943731372

Leadership Series: Relationships, Relationships, Relationships!

windowslivewriter10reasonstousefacebookforbusiness-95e1handshake-2
Image by marismith.com

“It’s all politics anyway.”

We’ve all heard this phrase. People say it when they don’t get that dream job or big promotion. Leadership is as much about crushing setbacks as it is soaring successes. I know a whole bunch about stumbling blocks. I’ve lost four campaigns for public office, a prestigious executive position, and nearly lost my life.

On the other hand, I’ve coached a high school varsity basketball team, served in public office for four years, traveled across the country as a vice president for a major corporation, and founded a professional leadership academy in collaboration with Stanford University’s Center for the Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity.

Through it all, I learned what it takes to achieve career goals. In this series, I share my experiences and my secrets to climbing the ladder of leadership. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is the value of developing and nurturing meaningful professional relationships.

“It’s all politics anyway.” Right?

You’re damn right!

Well, sort of…

Getting a leadership role requires great work product, strategic thinking, perseverance, and an ample supply of people skills (aka political know-how and savvy). Keep in mind that I use the word “politics” with a lowercase “p” to distinguish it from the cutthroat Elective Politics we see on the 24-hour cable news networks. What I’m talking about is the cutthroat politics we see in schools, the workplace, and just about every place people interact.

Politics isn’t a dirty word. Understanding that it’s a fact of life when working with people and learning how to manage that process are the best kept secrets for leadership development and advancement. It’s about relationships, relationships, relationships!

Too many talented Latinos and Latinas tell me that good work alone should speak for itself, so they don’t understand the need to learn how to navigate the tricky waters of organizational politics to land a leadership role. Getting ahead is all politics anyway, they assure me.

If you agree with that statement, stop reading now! This series isn’t for you.

Moving up the  organizational food chain is about good work and politics. One doesn’t work without the other. In his book, Hardball: How Politics Is Played Told By One Who Knows The Game, political commentator Chris Matthews advises that “it’s not who you, it’s who you get to know.” It’s great advice. Do yourself a favor and buy the book.

What does Matthews mean by his provocative statement? Essentially, you have to build relationships with the right people. In today’s social media “friend” acquisition frenzy, many aspiring leaders judge their value by the amount of “friends” and “Likes” they can accumulate. That kind of online shotgun approach to professional relationship-building doesn’t work.

Developing and nurturing meaningful professional relationships is hard personal face-to-face work. Here are three steps to help you get started:

  1. Determine who in your organization (or the community) is actually influential.

I call these folks the decision-makers. They manage the resources that everyone else is trying to get their hands on. Many of these types of leader have a title and authority to move resources around. Some don’t. The trick is figuring out who is who. This is a challenging endeavor.

There are many people running around looking and sounding like decision-makers. Beware of them. Most aren’t. One of my favorite quotes comes from Frank Underwood, a fictional character in the Netflix series, House of Cards. Underwood warns that, “proximity to power deludes some into thinking they wield it.”

So how can you identify the real deal? It’s usually not the people who have to tell others that they are leaders and have influence. True leaders are too busy managing and allocating resources to tout their value. When attending an event or meeting, the decision-makers are the ones others are lining up to see and take photos with. They’re not the people asking for a minute to chat or take a photo.

You should make time to study subtle actions and dynamics in a room. When going to a reception, leave the wine at the bar and use your time wisely to survey the situation to determine who is “wielding the power.” At a meeting, spend time studying who the boss is listening to, not the other way around. In short order, you’ll begin to figure out who is who.

  1. Strategically begin getting to know the decision-makers and the people close to them.

Building meaningful relationships is strategic. Once you’ve figured out who has the influence and authority to impact your leadership journey, introduce yourself (no photo requests, please). Be prepared to deliver your elevator pitch. Have a quick and friendly chat and move on.

Identify who the decision-maker listens to and begin the relationship development there. There usually is more than one person that fits this job description, so work in concentric circles starting with the most accessible person in the circle. Be genuine, sincere, and confident as you develop these professional friendships. Once trust is built, you’ll be invited into the next level of the concentric circle and a step closer to a leadership role.

  1. Follow through!

Make sure you follow up with decision-makers and those close to them right away. It could be via text message or e-mail. The best method is writing a personal hand-written note. Buy a stack of custom-made cards for this purpose. Your message should be brief and simple with an invitation to touch base over coffee or lunch, whichever is most appropriate.

When you get the chance to work with decision-makers, be honest about your talents and abilities. Don’t make a commitment you can’t meet. Credibility and follow-through are critical to demonstrating your potential for advancement. Say what you do and do what you say…and always follow though!

Work hard, be genuine, and get out of the office to meet people, the right people. It’s not ALL politics, but it’s difficult for decision-makers to notice you if they don’t know you and your work, despite a great work product. So politics is important. Be strategic. Remember, it’s not who you know, it’s who you get to know. Or, as a veteran executive once told me, “it’s who gets to know YOU.”

Leadership Series: Just do it!

2484_1029886993474_8334035_n
At lunch in the U.S. Capitol cafeteria with Congressman Mike Honda and fellow executive Johnnie Giles (2008)

I’ve made the case for why Latino leadership is important to California’s economy. Over the next 20 years, one in two working-age Californians will be Latino, so a prosperous Latino community means economic stability for all. It’s a pretty simple formula.

A quick glance at the CEO’s of the Fortune 500 shows that over 90% of top executives in the country are white men. Demographics of school superintendents across the nation are the same. Women and people of color have made great strides in getting elected to Congress in the last 25 years, but white men still rule the roost.

Everyone has an inclination to judge people based on race and other factors. Leaders aren’t immune to this, so it’s easy to see how stereotypes could limit opportunities for Latinas and Latinos. Bias, however, isn’t limited to white male executives. Latinos also develop impressions about a person’s skill, talent, ability, and place in the food chain based on race and gender.

Latinos are conditioned to accept that leadership positions aren’t attainable. We create barriers to our own success. This starts at a young age. My biggest challenge working with Latino high school kids to develop their leadership skills is getting them to believe that they can be successful.

We can’t change the fact that all human beings have biases, nor will the leadership demographics change dramatically anytime soon. This doesn’t mean that Latinas and Latinos can’t find their way to that dream job or leadership role. It takes a lot of work and strategic planning. Getting there is a challenging and time-consuming process.

Over the past three decades, I’ve learned many valuable lessons. Here are a few thoughts to get you started:

  1. Believe in Yourself

This sounds easy enough, but self-doubt is one of the most common hurdles Latinos must overcome to attain professional success. There are lots of people in our lives who help create that phenomenon. Someone is always available – a parent, friend, tío, older sibling, teacher – to caution us against taking risks. Their advice is meant to keep us grounded when our dreams get too big. But it really serves to keep us from achieving our potential.

For me, that person was my high school counselor. With piercing blue-green eyes and a booming voice, Mr. Bailey advised that my poor study skills left me with few options other than trade school, work, or maybe, community college. His advice ignored the fact that I completed a college track curriculum. I applied to San Jose State University anyway.

When I arrived on the SJSU campus for the first time, self-doubt almost crippled me. Few other students came from neighborhoods like mine or looked like me. I could hear Mr. Bailey’s voice and the voices of other well-meaning doubters reminding me that I didn’t belong there. After a rocky start, I realized I could do the work. I went on to do well in college.

If you’re in college now, remember that you’re there because you earned it. If you’re moving your way up in the office – supervisor, manager, or high level executive – don’t forget that you’ve worked for it. Don’t let the doubters that surround you, or your own doubts, keep you from taking risks and getting ahead.

At every step in my career – legislative aide to chief of staff, corporate manger to vice president, education activist to school board president – my own doubts about being able to succeed would creep into my consciousness. With each success, it became easier to manage doubt. No matter where you are in your leadership journey, believe in yourself.

  1. Work Harder and Smarter Than Everyone Else

There’s an old saying that goes something like this: “Latinos and other people of color have to work twice as hard to get half as far.” My experience has taught me that this statement is absolutely true. I’m not complaining, nor do I intend to discourage talented Latinos from seeking that dream job. That’s just the way it is. Knowing this will give you an advantage.

Let’s start with working harder. Do your job with passion and precision. Stay late to finish a project. Come in early to prepare for a presentation. I believe in the “Five Ps”: Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance. Of course, do all this in the context of having a work/home balance. It’s hard to do, but not impossible.

You need to work smarter too. Make sure that the bosses know your work. This is challenging as Latinos are taught to be humble. You can do this without looking like your bragging. Check in with your supervisors to share what you’re working on. There’s no need for a detailed e-mail or a scheduled meeting. I used to catch the boss in the hallway for a quick chat. Soon, higher-ups  were popping their heads into my office.

Working my way through the corporate environment, I made sure to produce a great work product. I also dedicated time to build relationships with people who made decisions. In this process, they got to know me and my work. When the time for advancement opportunities came, I wasn’t unknown to the company leaders.

  1. Just Do It

I have large black and white portrait of Cesar Chavez hanging in my office. To me, Cesar is an American civil rights hero who inspires people with his rallying cry, Sí se puede. At the risk of sounding sacrilegious, that’s not enough. It inspires people to take on a challenge, but it doesn’t finish the job. For that, I turn to Nike’s famous 1988 ad campaign, “Just Do It.”

When the opportunity to advance up the org chart finally came, I was ready. I did my job well, volunteered for special projects, and built relationships with company executives. One of them nominated me to participate in an exclusive executive leadership training program. It would be a year-long adventure that required many trips to the east coast to the company headquarters.

The first session of the program was scheduled for January. The east coast was blanketed with snow, so I bought a scarf, topcoat, and hat to prepare for the cold. There would be an introductory dinner when I arrived, so I dressed for the occasion wearing my best dark suit, white shirt, power tie, and polished shoes. I looked the part. I was ready.

When I arrived on the east coast, I hurried through the airport to catch a taxi to go to the dinner. Excited and nervous, I passed a ceiling to floor mirror and stopped in my tracks. Seeing myself dressed like an executive with top coat, scarf, and hat stunned me. As I looked in the mirror, voices of the doubters filled my head. “Who do you think you are?” “You can’t be an executive.”

After a few moments, I considered walking straight to the ticket counter to get the next flight home. That wasn’t me in the mirror. I was just a Latino kid from the east side. I would make a fool of myself surrounded by talented people. Then I heard Cesar say “Sí se puede” and decided to just do it. One year later I completed the leadership program. Ten months after that, I became a company vice president.

The path to leadership is a complex exercise in producing good work and developing meaningful relationships. It’s a long and tough journey that is made up of many factors. The first step is for you to have a true belief in yourself. Working harder than everyone else isn’t enough. You must work smarter too.

When it’s time to make your move, just do it.

Leadership Series: Making the Case for Latino Leadership

Michele
Image by socalatinos.org

Within a generation, California and many parts of the nation will have to depend on well-prepared Latino leaders to ensure continued social and economic growth and stability.

Here’s what needs to happen: Smart, talented, and compassionate Latinos need to seek out leadership roles in business, education, politics, and community service, and, the business, education, political, and community service sectors need to seek out smart, talented, and compassionate Latino leaders.

It’s a simple formula.

The term Latino leader isn’t limited to those who represent just Latino interests. Latinos are capable of representing people of all backgrounds, be it racial, ethnic, social, or economic. When I use Latino leader, I’m talking about a leader who happens to be Latino, but provides leadership for an entire community.

Making the case to develop Latino leaders to be stewards of our community’s economic, political, and educational health is in the numbers.

According to the California Department of Education, 53% of students who attend public school today are Latino. That means that in the next twenty years or so, one out of every two workers in California will look like us. Economics require that those of working age carry the financial burden of keeping a community solvent.

To ensure a robust economy, it’s important that breadwinners represent the spectrum of workers from frontline employees to executives. If more than half of the population is under-educated and unprepared, thus under-employed, the economic impact on the state’s future could be catastrophic. That’s why it’s imperative that Latinos are prepared for all levels of employment, including leadership roles.

Here are some more numbers: Despite representing over half of the students in California, only 9% of college graduates, 18% of teachers, and 6% of education administrators are Latino. So what’s the deal? Our school system is preparing more than half of its students to be service sector workers, not managers and decision-makers. The better question is: Why is this happening?

I got an inside look on how school systems work while serving on the board of trustees at the largest high school district in California. With 26,000 students and a $220 million dollar budget, it’s a pretty big and complex operation. The district serves a majority of Latino neighborhoods in the city. Its demographics match the state’s numbers on Latino students, teachers, and administrators.

The most influential interest groups, employee bargaining groups and parent organizations, are mostly led by non-Latinos. Only one of the five current school trustees is Latino. This dynamic reflects the typical school district in California where the overwhelming majority of decision-makers doesn’t demographically represent the majority of its students.

The problem with this is that education leaders who aren’t Latino are more susceptible to making decisions based on preconceived notions about Latinos. Sociologists call this phenomenon inherent bias. These biases impact public policy decisions, class schedule assignments, student disciplinary action, and the allocation of resources, all of which results in disproportionate harm to half of the students.

I met the full force of the impact of how an unbalanced demographic relationship between students, teachers, administrators, and policy-makers in 2010 when I served as board president. A few years earlier, the district chapter of the student group Californians for Justice met with me to advocate for a policy that would make graduation requirements the same as eligibility standards for acceptance to University of California and California State University schools.

Makes sense, right? I thought so. When I was elected board president, I excitedly began to reach out to administrators, teachers, and my board colleagues to get buy-in for a policy proposal that connected high school graduation requirements to college prerequisites. I was met with immediate resistance. The stumbling block was a requirement to complete Algebra II.

Administrators counseled against moving too fast raising concerns about the lack of student preparation coming from middle school, especially schools with large Latino populations. Math teachers fiercely opposed the idea. The teacher’s union president, an Algebra teacher, sat across the table from me in a coffee shop lecturing with authority that “these kids” can’t do Algebra II.

Conversations with other trustees didn’t fare any better. Two of them wanted to “study” the issue further, a standard tactic to delay a policy proposal to death. One trustee expressed concerns that the policy would “force” every student to be on a college track. What about the students who wanted to learn a trade so they could begin working right after high school graduation, he asked. I knew who he was talking about.

Was this a case of inherent bias? You better believe it. Each one of these decision-makers raised concerns about Latino students’ ability to succeed in a rigorous academic environment. But I disagreed. I was one of those students. My high school counselor recommended that I consider learning a trade instead of going to college. Fortunately, that was a non-starter for my parents.

Because of my experience, I didn’t have any preconceived notions about Latino kids. There was no inherent bias driving my decision to fight for the more rigorous graduation requirements. I figured if I could complete a college track curriculum and succeed in college so could other students who grew up in neighborhoods like mine. So, I charged ahead to change the policy.

I learned that Latino leaders can deliberate about decisions without the filter of inherent bias in the way. With Latinos serving as decision-makers in business, politics, education, and community engagement, half of the population will have more opportunities to contribute to the success of the entire state.

The other half of the population will benefit as well from this kind of leadership. After a long and contentious campaign to raise graduation requirements in 2010, a board majority led the way to approving a policy that made college-prep classes the curriculum for all students enrolling in a district high school.

The Class of 2015 was the first class in the district’s history to complete a four-year program with every graduate eligible to apply to a University of California and California State University college.

That’s precisely why smart, talented, and compassionate Latinos need to seek out leadership roles and that’s why the community could use a bunch of smart, talented, and compassionate Latino leaders.

**********

Next time on the ESEReport.com Leadership Series: We’ll explore the success of an institution that isn’t hampered by inherent bias.

Leadership Series: The Path to the Corner Office

corner-office
Corner Office photo by http://www.bigisthenewsmall.com

Can you imagine yourself in the corner office with a great view, an expense account, an assistant, and company car?

How about banging the gavel as chair of a city commission or standing on the floor of the state legislature to make an important speech?

Maybe you want to be a school principal, a non-profit executive, or get that big promotion at work.

All of these high-profile positions require an aptitude for leadership. Becoming a successful leader requires great work product, strategic thinking, perseverance, and an ample supply of people skills. It also demands that you have the ability to bounce back from the failures that come with taking the risks necessary to succeed.

Leadership isn’t for everyone. It’s a tough business. ESEReport.com can show you how to manage the complex world of effective leadership.

For almost 30 years, I’ve had the opportunity to serve in many leadership roles (https://esereport.com/eddie-garcia-biography/).

I was 23 years old when I became the head coach of a high school varsity basketball team. I changed careers and worked my way through corporate middle management to eventually rise to vice president in a Fortune 100 company. I also served as board president for a large school district, and created the LLA Leadership Academy in collaboration with Stanford University’s Center for the Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity.

Through it all, I learned what it takes to lead.  I created the ESEReport.com Leadership Series to share my experiences and my secrets for successfully navigating the path to the corner office.

While the concepts I discuss could benefit anyone with the ambition to be a leader, the series will focus on helping Latinos and Latinas reach their potential. That’s where my heart is. That’s my experience. That’s what I know how to do.

My inspiration for the ESEReport.com Leadership Series comes from the many bright, talented, passionate and ambitious Latinas and Latinos who have crossed my path during many years of coaching emerging leaders.

I’ve worked with over 70 professional Latinas and Latinos who are mid-level corporate executives, non-profit organization executives, attorneys, elected public officials, and community activists. These talented people have been educated at elite private universities and public state universities. They’re leaders in the organizations they represent. Their gifts and capacity to lead are exceptional.

Even more inspiring is that they share the same humble beginnings that many of us do. The combination of working-class roots and a solid college education creates an opportunity for common sense leadership. Practical knowledge of how it all works and how to apply it for the common good will give rise to innovative, more compassionate, thought-leaders and decision-makers.

That’s where the ESEReport.com Leadership Series comes in. By sharing my experiences and success secrets, I hope to inspire the next generation of leaders.

Latinas and Latinos are poised play a major role in what tomorrow looks like. If you want to be part of that future, stay tuned. The ESEReport.com Leadership Series is for you.

*****

What others say about Eddie García’s approach to leadership development:

“Eddie García brings a wealth of personal experience and leadership training development to his ESEReport.com. His advice and suggestions are a treasure trove for those wishing to become effective leaders.” ~Dr. Al Camarillo, Professor of History and Founder, Center for the Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, Stanford University

“Eddie was one of the first people who believed in me and he became an integral part in my early development. He is an excellent facilitator and he not only teaches great lessons but he makes them fun and easy to comprehend. I didn’t just learn from his experiences but I also gained even more confidence in myself. Today I represent over 100,000 residents in one of the fastest growing urban centers in the United States.” ~Honorable Raul Peralez, Councilmember, District 3, City of San José

“Understanding Eddie García’s Four Pillars of Leadership Model is essential for anyone who wants to lead an organization. His experience as a leader in each of the Pillars gives students of his approach first-hand knowledge of how it works. ~Sandra García, Principal, Adelante Dual Language Academy; Named “2013 Principal of the Year” by the Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce

“Eddie’s passion for leadership development in the Latino community is clear. I regularly hear from graduates of the LLA Academy who share stories of how they used the tools that they received from Eddie, to advance to the next level in their career or take on a civic leadership role.” ~Honorable Andrés Quintero, Trustee, Alum Rock Union School District Board of Trustees

“I’ve known Eddie since he was a corporate executive. His real-world experience as an effective strategist forms the foundation of his approach to teaching leadership and his unique capacity to work among diverse groups of people makes him an excellent leadership coach.” ~Maria Bonilla Giuriato, President, Bonilla Giuriato & Associates; former City Councilwoman, Salinas California

Eddie García has played a pivotal role in supporting my development as an educational leader. I believe so deeply in Eddie’s ability to develop quality leaders that I have hired him as a consultant to work with our student government.” ~Jeffery Camarillo, Founding Director, Luis Valdez Leadership Academy

“Eddie’s extensive experience in East San Jose combined with his tell-it-like-it-is coaching skills have helped me make a stronger impact in my community beyond my role as a school principal.” ~Daisy Barocio, Principal, Escuela Popular Dual Language Academy

*****

To get notifications for the ESEReport.com Leadership Series click the “Follow ESEReport.com” tab on the upper right hand corner of this page.

You can also follow and “Like” the ESEREport.com Facebook page by going to https://www.facebook.com/esereport/?fref=ts or find us on Twitter at https://twitter.com/EastsideEddieG.

Latino Thursday: The Next Generation of Leaders Looks Good

"Thank You" Poster Made by Luis Valdez Leadership Academy Student Leaders
“Thank You Poster”  by Luis Valdez Leadership Academy Student Leaders

One of my pet peeves is the phrase, “kids these days.” You know what I mean. What happened to the days when kids would speak only when spoken to and say “yes, ma’am” and “no sir.” Remember those days? My favorite is, “Kids these days don’t say ‘please’ when they want something or ‘thank you’ to show gratitude.

We old timers worry about what will happen when we get older and have to rely on the next generation to take care of us. What a mess, right? These kids can’t even write full sentences when they text. They would rather send “pics” on Instagram and Snapchat than pick up a phone or write a letter.

They listen to music that isn’t even music. What happened to the good old school days when you could understand the lyrics? Earth, Wind, and Fire. Santana. Al Green. Lionel Richie. Malo. Remember “Suavecito”?

That was music.

Many people my age wonder how kids these days will run the place when we retire. The old folks are sure that the world will go straight to the dogs when the youngsters take charge.

Well my dear readers, I absolutely, overwhelmingly, vehemently, and respectfully disagree!

I know we’ll be in good hands when the next generation of Latino leaders takes the helm. Let me tell you why.

During the last two school years, I’ve had the privilege and pleasure to teach leadership classes at three east side high schools: Latino College Prep Academy, Luis Valdez Leadership Academy, and Roberto Cruz Leadership Academy. Latino students represent over 90% of the population at the schools. The program I teach is a six-week freshman course that provides students with the tools to present and conduct themselves in a professional manner.

The students learn how to set and plan goals, make professional presentations, and work in teams. They also do professional development exercises to help them with shaking hands, sitting and standing posture, making eye contact, and using body language to convey confidence. This is all done within the framework of understanding and respecting Latino cultural norms. The goal of the program is to send our kids to college and beyond with the self-assurance to succeed.

At Luis Valdez Leadership Academy (LVLA) I’ve been able to see the results of the program as the student government advisor. LVLA is in its second year of operation, so the student government is comprised of freshmen and sophomores. That means that these young leaders have an opportunity to set the cultural tone for the school well into the future.

After taking the six-week course, the elected leaders learned how to run a working decision-making government. The leadership group is large. There are four school-wide elected officers, class officers, and classroom representatives. In all, 23 students represent their peers to create and manage events and activities for the school year. In any governmental environment, a leadership team of that size is challenging to manage.

With that in mind, the student leaders are studying the fundamentals of the rules of order used by city halls, statehouses, and congress. They’re learning how to share their ideas with their fellow leaders through orderly debate and discussion. The students are using the committee system to tackle the details of putting their ideas into an actual plan.

After several weeks of intense training, the student government was ready to take on its first project. They decided to have a fall dance. As the first-ever dance in the school’s history, these young leaders felt much pressure to make the event successful. They had heated debates about the theme of the dance, the date, fundraising, the food and refreshments, decorations, and much more.

To have the event they wanted, student leaders had to raise $800 by selling tickets. They had less than three weeks to achieve this goal. That’s a tall order in a working-class neighborhood. Many on campus quietly shared concerns that the student council took on too much than they could handle.

Using the rules of order they learned, the young decision-makers developed a ticket sales and marketing strategy, and created a plan for a 100% student led and managed dance. I’ve been around many leadership teams in my career, and the students experienced all of the potential pitfalls and challenges that any team of leaders could confront. Through their raucous use of the democratic process, they worked through each barrier.

When the dust settled, here’s what happened:

LVLA had its first-ever school dance, they called it the “Falling for Fall” event. More than half of the student body attended. The student government made money on the event by raising over $1,000. The buzz on campus the next Monday was all about the dance. Everyone had a great time. The event was an overwhelming success by any and every measurement.

This gets me back to “kids these days.” Given the right tools and the confidence to succeed, Latino students will be exemplary leaders in the future. We’re in good hands. Today’s Latino civic and community leaders could learn a few things about teamwork and cooperation from the LVLA student government. In fact, so could our do-nothing United States Congress.

Oh, by the way, the student government planned and hosted an appreciation potluck for me and fellow advisor Mr. Osvaldo Ruelas, a young educator who is a future leader himself. The student leaders wanted to say “thank you” for the small role we played in supporting them.

Kids these days.

Latino Thursday: Let’s Play Presidential Hardball

Image by mediaite.com
Image by mediaite.com

As the Republican nomination circus rolls through cyberspace, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Yesterday, Donald Trump reposted a tweet with a variety of anti-Latino images featuring rival presidential candidate Jeb Bush posing with his Mexican-born wife and wearing a photo-shopped mariachi outfit. The retweet included the following caption, “ADIOS, JEB aka JOSÉ.”

I love the reference to “José,” the standard Mexican slur. That’s a good one, Mr. Trump. Very original.

Actually, the 2016 presidential race is starting to get interesting for Latinos.

Republicans continue to dismiss the fastest growing voter bloc in the country. To satisfy the Racist Right, new Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has already announced that comprehensive immigration reform will never see the light of day. The party doesn’t have the courage to refute Trump’s racist taunts. Same old you know what, different day.

On the other hand, Democrats remain strategically quiet on immigration reform. They appear supportive, but the support is lukewarm at best. None of the candidates for president has made reform a cornerstone of their campaigns. We might be subject to another election cycle when the latte liberal left takes Latinos for granted because the other side is so terrible for us.

There are some interesting developments that may put Latinos in the driver’s seat of the 2016 presidential race.

If the wacky base of the GOP comes to its senses and figures out that someone who has never served in public office would be a disaster for our country, the party’s best chance to win in November just may be a Latino, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. The Bush team calls him “the GOP Obama.” It was meant to be an insult, but that could be bad for Democrats. Remember, President Obama is undefeated in presidential elections.

Latinos are a large voting bloc in the states with a bunch of the Electoral College votes needed to win the presidency: California, Florida, Texas, Illinois, and New York. Experts believe that Republicans need to win at least 40% of the Latino vote for a chance to win. President George W. Bush has been the only Republican able to poll those kinds of numbers since Latinos have emerged as a key voting bloc.

Only 18% of Latino registered voters are Republican. That means all registered GOP Latino voters have to cast a vote for their party’s nominee and over 20% of registered Democrats and independents have to crossover for a Republican to win. If Republican Latinos vote against their party for any reason, the GOP has big problems.

However, if the bilingual Sen. Rubio gets the Republican nomination and moderates his stance on immigration reform, the Democrats could be in trouble. He could saturate the Spanish language airwaves in his own voice to woo Latino independents and some conservative Democrats. This could be enough to get to the elusive 40% the GOP needs to secure a home at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

So what does this all mean? Latino voters have a shot to decide who will be the next President of the United States.

Let me explain.

Last week, a group of Latino GOP leaders made an ultimatum to the party. Stop disparaging the Latino community or else. The threat was directed to Mr. Trump, but it was clear that the demand could include others. Rosario Marin, the former Republican Treasurer of the United States, said, “Heed our warning, don’t expect us to come to your side during the general election…If you are not with us now, we will not be with you then.” These are tough words, indeed.

A Latino Republican rebellion could cause them to stay home on Election Day or vote Democrat. In both cases, the GOP has no chance to win. Of course, this probably won’t happen if the group of influential Latino Republican leaders gets its way or if Sen. Rubio is the nominee

If the GOP gets its act together and heeds Ms. Marin’s warning, things could get awfully close in the General Election next fall. In that case, Latino Democrats have to come out in big numbers for the Democratic nominee to prevail.

That brings us to the Democrats.

The Democratic Party historically has been favorable to Latino issues, but only as a sideshow. Let’s be honest, the party has taken the Latino vote for granted since the “Viva Kennedy” campaign in 1960. For more than a half century, we’ve been a loyal and automatic yes vote for the Democratic ticket.

President Obama’s 2008 campaign promise for comprehensive immigration reform took a back seat during his administration, yet Latinos voted for him overwhelmingly in 2012. Our community can’t let the Dems slide anymore. This time is different. The Democratic Party needs Latinos.

I tip my cap to former Treasurer Marin and her cohorts for having the courage to tell the GOP the way it’s going to be. If their party listens, it has a chance to win back the White House.

Latino Democratic leaders should take a cue from their Republican counterparts and let the party know that we no longer want to be relegated to the back seat. Comprehensive immigration reform is our issue. It crosses party lines. People need to safely come out of the shadows, families need to stay together. If the Democratic ticket won’t make this issue the centerpiece of its platform, Latinos should consider staying home next November.

Then, as we Latinos like to say, “Let’s see what happens.”

 

 

 

Latino Thursday: Luis Valdez Leadership Academy

LVLA-Logo

I was in the office at Luis Valdez Leadership Academy (LVLA) waiting to interview Founding Director Jeff Camarillo for today’s post. As I sat down, a student walked out of Mr. Camarillo’s office and his assistant poked her head into the door carrying several messages for him. Before she walked out of his office, he was on the phone taking a call.

I could hear Mr. Camarillo energetically brainstorming solutions with a colleague. He hung up, and before I could even see him, he enthusiastically welcomed me to the academy. Walking out of his office he greeted me with a big smile and hug, Latino style. It was about 2:30 in the afternoon, right around the time that most people start feeling the after-lunch blahs. Not Mr. Camarillo, he was a bundle of energy.

The LVLA is a new charter school located in east San Jose. It’s the second high school chartered by the National Hispanic University Foundation. As the education community grapples with the Latino academic achievement gap and debates over the most effective way to close it, institutions like the NHUF are seeking out-of-the-box solutions like their flagship school Latino College Preparatory Academy and LVLA.

Charter schools are proliferating in Silicon Valley, especially in east side Latino communities. For the past three years, I’ve studied charter schools and their impact on Latino students and neighborhoods. Charters are publicly-funded schools that operate without being handcuffed by the constraints of traditional public school rules. This offers advantages to be sure. But the jury is still out.

There’s no real data yet on their long-term effect on Latino student success. In Silicon Valley, the chain charter schools, derisively called “McCharters” by opponents, have been criticized for questionable recruiting tactics in Latino neighborhoods. Their source of financial support also raises eyebrows. High-tech contributors stand to profit from the chain charter reliance on computer-based “blended learning.”

LVLA isn’t a chain charter school. It’s an innovative concept. Education leaders serious about closing the Latino academic achievement and college attainment gaps should pay attention to the formula developed at LVLA.

Let’s start with staffing. Director Camarillo is an Ivy League and Stanford educated son of a distinguished Stanford professor. The Dean of Instruction also studied at a prominent Ivy League university. The team of teachers includes many who are first in their families to go to college, so they will have an intimate and culturally conscious understanding of their students’ experiences.

The savvy staff will work in an environment of a college-going culture. Nearly all of the 95 incoming freshmen that represent the Founding Class just completed a two-week summer bridge program where they were introduced to the school’s vision. The program included events and activities at Stanford and U.C. Santa Cruz. A trip to visit East Coast universities is in the works.

When students walk through the doors on the first day of school on Monday, they will have a rigorous schedule of classes. The “A-G Checklist” that’s required to gain acceptance into the University of California and California State University systems is the default curriculum at LVLA. So the college-going culture isn’t just a feel-good tactic, it represents the core of daily academics.

Rather than focusing on computer-based learning, LVLA will implement the tried and true strategy of individualized teaching and guidance. Teachers are committed to getting to know each student and students will have an advisor that follows them through the four years they prepare for college. Add a visual performing arts program created for LVLA by the famed El Teatro Campesino and you have a robust curriculum.

The legendary playwright Luis Valdez was on hand for the ribbon-cutting ceremony last week. The self-proclaimed “east San Jose homeboy” delivered keynote remarks that took the audience on an inspiring journey from the Latino struggle for civil rights nearly a half century ago to the innovative Silicon Valley school that now bears his name.

During my 20-minute interview with Director Camarillo, I could hear the passion in his voice and see the determination in his eyes as he described his vision for the future. As we were talking, from the corner of his eye he caught a mom and her son looking for the campus office. He jumped out of his chair, opened the window, and guided them to the office in Spanish. The mom smiled warmly knowing that her son was in the right place.

The vision, staff commitment, academic rigor, and extracurricular enrichment are all in place to make LVLA a great school. Now Mr. Camarillo and his team have to execute. After attending the school’s opening and spending a few minutes with the person who’s charged with leading the effort, there is no doubt in my mind that they’ll succeed. I walked off campus feeling confident that something special is happening on the east side.

Latino Thursdays: The Art of Being a Professional

(Stock Photo-www.htbsaccounting.com)
(Stock Photo-www.htbsaccounting.com)

I was 29 years old when I attended my first fundraising event. The guest of honor was a candidate for mayor of Los Angeles.  I volunteered to help at the event that was held at an upscale art gallery in downtown San Jose. All I had to do was sign in attendees and collect donations, nevertheless I was anxious and a little intimidated. I had never been to a fundraiser or an art gallery.

As a kid, I remember that my dad used to say that every man should own at least one suit and a sports coat with a pair of slacks, so I had something handy to wear. I wore a gray two-button business suit, light blue dress shirt with dark blue tie, and cordovan penny loafers. The reason I remember what I was wearing so clearly is because it was the only dress clothes I had other than a tweed sports coat and navy wool dress pants.

The gallery was long and narrow. Modern art paintings hung on the walls and interesting sculptures sat on pedestals. White linen tablecloths topped tall cocktail tables and a small bar was staffed by a man dressed in a tuxedo.

A jazz trio softly played soothing tunes as men in business suits and professionally dressed women deposited checks into pre-printed envelopes, ate from small china plates, and chatted with other guests. It was like watching a well-choreographed dance.

After about an hour, the trio stopped playing and the event’s host introduced politicians and other VIPS to polite applause from the 40 or so guests. A few speakers enthusiastically praised the candidate, the candidate made brief comments, and the whole affair was done. Less than 15 minutes later, the gallery was empty.

Coming from a working-class Mexican American family, the only receptions that I knew about before that evening were related to weddings. The evening starts with mariachis entertaining guests, then dinner is served followed with a night of dancing. After the dance, family and close friends go to the home of the bride’s and groom’s parents for a nightcap. They all return for menudo the next morning. Total time: about 24 hours.

So here I was at the art gallery, 29 years old with a college degree, and I had just witnessed something that was completely out of this world for me. I was intrigued with the rhythmic nature of the event and fascinated that everyone knew how it worked. Since then, I’ve attended hundreds of receptions, breakfast events, luncheons, dinners, and cocktail parties. It was on-the-job training on how to conduct myself on a professional stage.

I’ve learned that choice of attire, how you stand, sit, move about the room, and shake hands all send messages on your credibility as a professional. Nobody is watching, yet everybody is watching. The impression you make on others could be the difference in getting the dream job, earning a promotion, or landing that lucrative contract.

More Latinos than ever are graduating with college degrees. That’s a good thing. Armed with an education and a valuable piece of paper, we’re making inroads into the offices of corporate America, government, and education. Taking the next step into management is another proposition. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, just 8.5% of Latinos who work are in “management occupations.”

Most of those management positions are in the service industry. The percentage of government and education administrators is less than 7% and Google recently disclosed that only 3% of its workforce is Latino. I can’t imagine Google, or any other Silicon Valley tech firm, employing more than a handful of Latino managers.

So what does this mean?

Racial stereotypes play a major role in how managers look at their Latino employees. They expect us to be service employees, blue-collar workers, domestic help, landscapers, construction workers, and so on. Latinos may not even register with executives when developing a management team. But we can’t let these facts keep us out of the executive suite.

Unfortunately, many of us lack the confidence it takes to be considered for advancement. School systems don’t teach critically important skills like confidence, poise, and how to conduct oneself in a professional setting. For many working-class Latinos, our first job out of college is our initial exposure to the white-collar world. While we’re educationally prepared for the work, we don’t understand the subtle protocols of advancing through large professional organizations.

So what do we do about this?

As a corporate executive, I’ve learned that those of us who have attained management positions need to actively seek out talented Latinos and mentor them on the nuances of “climbing the corporate ladder.” Leadership programs focused on Latinos in business and education are popping up across the country. As a professional community we need to support these efforts.

Professional Latinos also need to share their time and wisdom at school career days. Our kids shouldn’t have to wait for a college degree and a job before they learn how to dress, stand, sit, shake hands, and speak as a professional.

Latinos are smart, talented, and ambitious. More times than not, ugly racial stereotypes get in the way of advancement. That is what it is. We need to overcome those obstacles. Those of us who have been blessed to have experienced professional success are obligated to make sure that the next generation walks into that first art gallery reception with poise and confidence.