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Action Steps for Developing Latino Leaders in your Organization

Organizations wishing to attract Latinos and other diverse professionals for top-level management positions often find themselves competing for the same candidates, most of whom are already employed elsewhere.
But it is also important to identify the talent that already exists within your organization. After all, these diverse employees already have the institutional and cultural knowledge that newcomers lack. Developing Latino leaders is clearly a win-win situation.
Here are some ideas for developing leadership potential in your Latino employees:

  1. Help your diverse employees take ownership of their careers.
    Is there an organizational structure that supports career management? If so, do your diverse employees know how to navigate it? Do they understand the potential paths available to them, given their own desires and your organizational realities? While this practice is good for all employees, it is particularly helpful to Latinos and other diverse professionals who may not be familiar with the organization’s unwritten rules.
  2. Make sure managers have frequent career conversations with diverse employees — not just performance evaluations.
    Do these managers know what matters to their employees? What value do they bring? Whats skills do they want (and need) to learn so they can become the leaders the organization needs to succeed? Some Latino employees may not readily share their desires, whether it is a desire to learn a new skill or to apply for an internal position. They have been brought up with the expectation that their efforts will be recognized and rewarded on merit alone. Encouraging them to share their career goals is the first step toward meeting them halfway.
  3. Provide training opportunities.
    When managers identify skills gaps, make it possible for your diverse employees to learn those skills. The return on this investment is clear when you consider that it promotes loyalty and engagement. Diverse employees who feel the organization cares because it invests in them are less likely to be lured away, even by tempting offers.
  4. Analyze the leadership skills that diverse employees already have.
    Many diverse employees develop and demonstrate their leadership capabilities through volunteer activities in community organizations or religious institutions. They also exhibit them through the roles they play in their Employee Resource Groups. Help them figure out how to transfer those skills into the work arena.
  5. Create opportunities to broaden your diverse employees’ experience base.
    People who make it to the executive suite have usually worked at different levels in their organization, in a variety of different capacities and with a wide range of individuals. Offer your diverse employees the chance to make internal moves and to take on stretch assignments. This fosters professional growth and gives your employees the organizational perspective needed to take on leadership responsibilities.
  6. Connect your diverse employees with a variety of potential mentors and networking opportunities.
    Help your employees to understand that it is appropriate–and expected–for them to seek other people’s help, even if they only know them professionally. Diverse employees in general (Latinos in particular) can be reluctant to ask for assistance for fear that people may think that they are incompetent. And they are especially uncomfortable “asking for favors” when the individuals whose help they might need are basically strangers. Explain to them that true networking, and even mentoring, is about reciprocal professional relationships.
  7. Teach employees to accept feedback non-defensively.
    Diverse employees often work under self-imposed pressure to do their jobs better and to work harder than others. This is because they fear that their mistakes may be generalized to all people in their respective groups. Reassure them that this is not the case and prove it by providing objective feedback (with examples) from which the employee can learn and grow.
  8. Provide opportunities to increase the risk-tolerance of diverse employees.
    The same fear that makes some diverse employees feel defensive when receiving feedback also leads them to be more reluctant to take necessary risks at work. But that old proverb “Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained” really applies here because leaders must take risks. Help your employees practice this skill through a framework that teaches them how to analyze their fears and allows them to take calculated risks.
  9. Make sure the existing leadership in your organization also increases its risk-tolerance.
    When it comes to promoting diversity, especially in the inner circles of an organization, many majority managers become uncomfortable. They feel apprehensive when considering candidates for high-visibility positions who aren’t like them and who may work in different ways. Unless current leaders are able to shift their risk-tolerance as well, the leadership pipeline will remain scantily populated with diversity for some time to come.
  10. Be supportive when opportunities for advancement arise.
    When leadership positions become available, encourage your diverse employees to apply.