Promising Practice Women in Leadership Dinners
Lee Hecht Harrison
Industry: Professional Services
Principle V: Business, Supply Chain, and Marketing Practices
2014 Challenge Submission
As a global talent mobility firm that creates solutions for outplacement and career transitions, leadership development, employee engagement and change management, Lee Hecht Harrison levels the playing field by organizing informal networks – a practice that men traditionally have done at the golf course. With a mission to change one person’s life at a time, these networking dinners provide the support professional women need in a more intimate setting.
“I am meeting women of different ages, ethnicities, industries, professions and even religious backgrounds and cultures who I wouldn’t otherwise meet, and I believe it is because of my interaction with this group that I am able to be a better leader within LHH.”
Since 2013, three female Lee Hecht Harrison (LHH) leaders have been meeting with professional women outside of the organization to support the personal and professional development growth of its members and encourage each other’s professional endeavors. This has enabled the women to develop a professional network of other women external to their organization as well as allow them to develop as leaders. Not only has this practice been supportive of the women outside of LHH, but it has enabled the three leaders within LHH their own forum for development and growth.
How does this model practice work?
About once every quarter, one of LHH’s key Business Developers (BD) invites a group of women to have dinner on LHH. The women are leaders in their organizations, chosen based on the relationship the BD already had with each of them. Other LHH leaders are also encouraged to invite women who they would like to know better. This strategy gives the evening a more intimate feel from the start – a sense of enjoying some time with “girlfriends” in a relaxed setting.
Since leadership means different things in different organizations, the participant’s leadership role is defined by the fact that she can relate to the challenges of being a woman in leadership.
The dinners are facilitated by one of LHH’s top executive coaches on topics that are relevant to the group such as exuding executive presence, making critical career decisions and ensuring work-life fit. One of LHH’s top Business Managers also attends and contributes to the discussion.
The BD chooses locations that are as central as possible to either the women’s homes or businesses and the restaurant chosen is typically not one the women would casually attend themselves. In addition to the facilitated leadership discussions, conversations have centered on health, aging, world events and family.
How can I adopt this model practice in my workplace?
This practice is scalable not only externally to the organization but also internally. Externally, a group of women could invite others either within or across industries and professions to attend dinner paid for by the company. The women can rotate hosts depending on a company’s budget, go “dutch” each time they meet or even meet in someone’s home – do a potluck, have the event catered or take advantage of someone’s cooking skills – allowing for a more intimate setting.
“The ultimate goal is to build trust with [the participants] so that the group will help them achieve their goals in life…I believe at the end of the day, people will partner in business with people whom they trust.”
Internally, this can be done as well during breakfast, lunch, or dinner – finding a host/sponsor to demonstrate the organization’s support. The women could meet offsite to enjoy conversation and one another’s company. They could take turns facilitating the discussion or bringing in an outside facilitator to help (sometimes a different voice is refreshing and engaging).
Participants have the freedom to decide the frequency, location, and time for each of these meetings. They can also decide on the next 2-3 topics they’d like to explore related to career development.