Later this month, Sonoma Valley’s La Luz Center will launch a new initiative to help emerging Sonoma Valley Latino leaders hone their leadership skills and develop deeper linkages in the community. This program is called the La Luz Latino Leadership Program and is being led by Jeni Nichols, a local leadership development expert and former owner of the successful training and coaching firm, Sonoma Leadership Systems (now Flashpoint Leadership after Nichols retired and sold the firm in 2016).
The program will span seven months and enable 15 Latino leaders to receive training and coaching on ways to exhibit positive leadership behaviors. As part of this program, each emerging leader will be paired with a local nonprofit organization to design and implement a project that will help further the mission of the nonprofit. The leadership of each nonprofit involved in this project will be responsible for coaching the emerging leaders as another way to build leadership competency.
When I discussed this project with Jeni Nichols last month, she mentioned how important the mentoring component is as part of each Latino leader’s professional development. She said, “We built mentoring into the program so that the participants could get up the learning curve faster. And the relationship that the Latino leaders establish with the mentor assures their success in completing a valuable community project. They will work closely with their mentor, getting guidance and encouragement from a seasoned leader in the nonprofit world here in Sonoma. I have found the nonprofit executive directors and board members here are happy to contribute to the growth of our future community leaders.”
After we discussed her reasons for including mentoring so prominently in the project, she asked if I had any tips for how the nonprofit leaders could best mentor their Latino protégés. Here are my suggestions for the nonprofit mentors: (1) Determine how often you will meet with the mentee and if the meetings will be formal in-office meetings or informal, off-site lunches or coffee; (2) Determine exactly what your mentee hopes to achieve through the mentorship; (3) Provide specific advice and examples of how you’ve exercised leadership behaviors throughout your career; (4) Be sure to mention any examples of tactics you’ve taken in your career that may not have worked out as well as you had wished; (5) Offer to introduce the mentee to your established professional network; and (6) View yourself as a partner in the mentee’s success by helping your mentee plan and implement his/her selected project.
Earlier this year, a book was published called “Mentoring Diverse Leaders,” a compendium of chapters edited by Murrell and Blake-Beard on how to mentor specific populations. Some of the highlights from the chapter by Blancero and Cotton-Nessler on mentorships that involve non-Latinos mentoring Latinos include the following: (1) Discuss the overall cultural differences openly at the beginning of the relationship; (2) Discuss the specific cultural differences in power distance and gender roles and agree on how they will communicate on issues of time, mutual respect, and how they will resolve any disagreements that may occur; (3) Discuss the boundaries with which each party is comfortable in addressing personal versus professional issues and determine what is the correct balance between work and friendship within the mentoring relationship; and (4) Determine the level of formality that the relationship will include and ways to develop trust.
Authors Blancero and Cotton-Nessler emphasize the importance of clarifying expectations in the beginning of the relationship by discussing the appropriate focus on career versus personal development. The mentor-mentee pairs should discuss to what extent the mentor will help the mentee develop specific skills, introduce the mentee to the mentor’s professional network, or have the mentor become a sounding board for navigating the mentee’s work-life balance issues. Finally, the authors report that research on cross-cultural mentoring suggests that frequent check-ins are extremely important, especially in the beginning of the relationship. Having more frequent meetings enhances the protégé’s satisfaction with the mentorship.
The Latino Leadership Program sponsors from La Luz Center are Marcelo Defreitas, Juan Hernandez, Sal Chavez, Nick Mendelson, and Bill Blosser. Training and coaching facilitators are Daren Blonski and Holly Seaton. Veronica Vences, La Luz Center’s Director of Programs, is working closely with Jeni Nichols on the program administration. We are so fortunate to live in a community that supports emerging Latino leaders and recognizes that they are indeed the future leaders of our Valley.