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NEW leaders cross regional boundaries to mentor each other

Monday, November 28, 2011  
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Network of Executive Women members are crossing regional boundaries to mentor other regional groups and advance the Network and its mission.

NEW Florida leaders are reaching out to the recently established NEW Atlanta committee, NEW Cincinnati leaders are mentoring their counterparts in the NEW Western Michigan region, and Northern California members are supporting NEW Pacific Northwest and NEW Canada. Next year, NEW Southern California will support the developing NEW Phoenix region and NEW North Central Texas will assist NEW South Texas.

"Our regional committee members are sharing their intellectual capital and past regional officers are continuing to build their strong relationship with the Network by helping establish NEW outposts,” said President and CEO Joan Toth. "These grassroots efforts are crucial to creating career paths for women in the cpg/retail industry and proving the business case for gender diversity.”

NEW Cincinnati leaders recently shared best practices with NEW Western Michigan committee members, including their success with professional development seminars; events that feature panels of key cpg/retail leaders sharing insights on relevant topics; and ice breakers, such as asking a general question for the entire group to answer and hosting informal holiday networking lunches.

Challenges and opportunities

Leaders in newly established regions face a number of challenges and opportunities, according to NEW Atlanta Co-Secretary Martha G. Johns, South Area grocery category advisor, Kraft Foods shopper insights and category development. "We need to engage a wide constituent group across the cpg/retail industry locally, figuring out how to operate the way NEW prescribes, and we need to understand the roles of each officer group committee and where there is overlap. The secretary role, for instance, is involved in virtually everything communicated.”

NEW Florida members have helped NEW Atlanta committee members with suggestions on how to organize and divide responsibilities. "They shared what worked for them in planning and what worked execution-wise, so that we can learn from their challenges and successes,” Johns said.

Some of the most helpful advice, she noted, were practical tips that boost efficiency, such as what topics are best covered on committee conference calls and which are best handled off-line. "Reaching out to folks who have been in your shoes is confidence-building in the early stages,” Johns shared.

Before region-to-region conference calls, it is helpful for the newly established committee to provide their mentors with a list of questions. "It facilitates more productive discussion,” said NEW Florida Co-Chair Trish Brynjolfsson, vice president, industry development, for Catalina Marketing. "NEW Atlanta leaders took excellent notes, which were distributed to other committee members.

"Many of their questions focused around the events. I didn't really sense concerns, but a strong interest in jump-starting learning and not starting from scratch.”

NEW Florida leaders advised their Atlanta counterparts to kick off each year with an in-person meeting, where attendees are split into groups, goals are aligned with the Network’s mission, ideas are brainstormed and an action plan is created for the year.

"We all have been new to a position at one time or another, so I believe in paying it forward,” Brynjolfsson said of her time spent mentoring NEW Atlanta members. "We are trying to make NEW the best national organization and our regional engagement is critical to NEW's growth and success.

The volunteer efforts are professionally rewarding as well, Johns added. Establishing a NEW region entails creating a team of people from many business cultures who have a variety of expectations of what "good” looks like.

"Making everyone on the team feel fully engaged and heard --while meeting NEW national expectations -- [requires skills that] can be carried into the day job,” she said. "With the industry’s blending and splitting of business units and companies, this experiences applies well to my professional life.”

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