Associate Attends Latino Leadership Program
July 08, 2021
Caroline Chamoun, Construction Projects Manager for Retail Business Services – the services company of Ahold Delhaize USA – learned to play to her strengths during a recent professional development opportunity identified by Retail Business Services’ Diversity, Equity and Inclusion department.
Caroline was one of numerous professionals across multiple industries who participated in the Latino Leadership Intensive – a three-month virtual course that provides Hispanic and Latino professionals with a rigorous learning experience focused on applying practical skills and techniques to improve leadership skills.
Of Colombian and Lebanese heritage, Caroline moved to the U.S. when she was 18. She did not speak English at the time, but made it a point to learn it that summer before beginning her first semester at the University of Maryland at College Park. As part of the Latino Leadership Intensive, Caroline and other attendees explored how these experiences are leadership assets and discussed how cultural differences have their own challenges and advantages.
“In many Latino cultures, it’s common to greet people with a hug or a kiss on the cheek, which of course is not going to work in an office environment,” Caroline said. “And – though I want to be careful not to generalize – many people of Latino heritage are more open and personal than you find in American culture. We also discussed how some individuals don’t want to be identified or labeled as Latino because they’re uncomfortable with it or afraid of being identified that way, and yet how others see that as an asset.”
Caroline said the Latino Leadership Intensive was a great experience and another example of how Retail Business Services is strengthening its commitment to be a better place to work by offering more development opportunities.
“This conference was about our experiences as Latinos in the world of leadership,” she said. “We talked about whether we’d encountered challenges or had different experiences just because we were Latino – as well as our strengths – such as if our background meant we approached problems differently and could offer creative solutions.
“To me, it was interesting because I’ve always thought my ethnicity should not define my leadership skills,” Caroline added. “So I thought it was really interesting to talk about this and see what other individuals were experiencing.”
That insight also helped Caroline identify her own strengths as a leader and better understand how to use those strengths more effectively.
“For me, the most important takeaway was when we touched on different types of conversations you can have with direct reports when they’re encountering challenges. You have to learn to ask the right questions so that they can arrive at the correct answer themselves – that way something that was an obstacle becomes a really valuable learning experience.
“Ninety percent of the time, what people come to you with isn’t the true problem,” she added. “So, being able to get to the root of it – that conversation, that process and being able to ask the right questions – is a powerful tool for a leader and helps strengthen your relationships with your direct reports.”
You can learn more about the Latino Leadership Intensive here.