One Mentor's Bold New Approach to Professional Development
Updated: Oct 21, 2022
NAWBO's High School Mentorship
I have known Bonita Owens for several years, so when I found out she was joining the team of mentors for NAWBO's High School Mentorship Program, I was thrilled.
I recently sat down with Bonita to talk about her involvement as a mentor with HSMP, and what she had to say is nothing short of inspiring.
Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me. I've always been a big fan of your work and everything that you do. So when I saw you sign up as a mentor for this program, I thought, oh my goodness, these girls are gonna get so much out of this.
Bonita: Oh, thank you. I'm honored and excited to really pour into and give of what I have. I've always had a heart for young girls. So I'm excited.
Zahra: I love that. Okay, so for those of us who don't know, you, as well, as I know, you tell me a little bit about yourself and what you do and what your business is.
Bonita: So I am the founder of AWN Leadership Consulting. We work with small and midsize companies to equip managers to directors with the skills and tools to effectively communicate and connect with their teams. So I was doing a course you know, women's empowerment, which I still do, it's near and dear to my heart. But I really focused more of my energies in the corporate space. I really want to help leaders and organizations to improve their well being in the workplace through effective communication, and learning how to engage people. This is so important because engagement is a big, big issue right now, in the workplace.
Zahra: I'd love to get your thoughts on vulnerability in the work place. Is it now okay to just be able to comfortably say, "I don't know, let's figure it out together" ? And not always having to be the one with all the answers all the time, you know, being responsible for making decisions, but also allowing for the fact that , you just don't know everything, and sometimes things like COVID happen, and all of your plans are gonna get crumbled up and tossed in a bin. And that's what it is. From your point of view, why is that so important, this skill sharpening in communication, and being able to express yourself and being able to connect, like you were saying with your team? What does that give a leader or a company that makes it worth the struggle of getting there?
Bonita: Yeah, you know, I really believe the pandemic helped people just re organize or, you know, really look at what work is and what work means in the grand scheme of our lives. And if we're spending 40 plus hours at work, that's a lot of time. Right? And so my philosophy is work is life, life is work, whatever issues we have at work, it spills over to our home life, whatever issues we have at home, it spills over into our work life. And so I think the now what we're seeing is companies understanding in order to really keep key people talented people who are going to connect with the vision, they need to feel like they matter. They people want to feel like they matter, especially this new generation, right? A paycheck is not enough good benefits is not enough. They want to know where how do I fit into the bigger picture, the bigger scheme of things. And so I think I really believe that in order to manage stress and to feel good at work and to want to come to work and to feel connected to the people you work with. Communication vulnerability. Brene Brown is like my BFF in my head. I lot of what I do are based on her philosophies and research. If we invest in the people invest in their well being and look at, okay, how can I be the best leader for that team? To connect with them to like, I love how you said, like, I don't have to, I don't know the answers. And I don't have to know all the answers, how can we be real? And then that allows us to show leaders to show the people that they lead, you can do this, too. It's not, you know, you got to be perfect. You've got to know everything. I think it helps instill confidence, especially when you're looking at women. when you look at women in confidence, and in the workplace, and leadership, I think a lot of times we sell ourselves short, or we think we don't have what it takes. Or we're looking at other people and comparing and thinking, Oh, my gosh, I could never do that. And I think vulnerability, helping leaders to be more vulnerable, will really help women in the workplace, build their confidence, because it's like, okay, you're a person just like I am. Even though you look like you got it all together, you have times of uncertainty just like I do, right? So it's just so many benefits in in having those skills to be able to communicate effectively be vulnerable, be engaging as a leader, in order to, to help the employees help productivity help with retention, that's another big thing. And just overall wellbeing.
Zahra: So tell me if you disagree, but I kind of think that women in this new environment have like this superpower secret advantage, because we are more empathetic, we are more nurturing as a whole?
Bonita: You talked about women, and you probably already know, this research shows that women CEOs are more successful, they bring in more revenue, because we do have that advantage, we do have that natural inclination to nurture now what happens is, I think is that where it could go left is women thinking that I have to do the same thing as men, in order to make it in order to be in order to be promoted, or, or in order to be taken seriously, I have to let that feminine side that feminine energy, go and take on this male dominant, you know, energy. And so that's another thing I think, is important to talk about. We can be successful how we are already successful, and why this works and how we can do it in our own way. And it'd be okay.
Zahra: I love that. I think that that's 100%. Right. And I think a lot of it has to do with representation, a lot of us grew up, and we had male bosses and our parents worked for men. And so there was no representation to see, like, how does power look in the hands of a woman? On that topic, can you tell me about your entrepreneurial journey.
Bonita: I kind of had this I hate to call it a midlife crisis, I really wasn't midlife, but I have to figure out a term for it. I'm gonna call it mom life crisis, I had a mom life crisis where I woke up one day thinking, wow, like, I've spent so much time just supporting my husband's career, so much time, you know, raising kids, all of which is great. But I lost myself in that process, I lost my what my skills and my talents and the things that I was excited about before, when I was single. And I just put all that aside, and I thought I was supposed to, and that wasn't fulfilling for me any longer. So I went on this journey. And that's when I just discovered my natural gifts and passions. And I had a light bulb, a true light bulb moment where I was in this conference, actually. And I realized that speaking was something I've done all my life since I was a little girl, it's always come naturally to me. I've never thought about doing it professionally, never, never occurred to me to do it professionally. And I'm like, wow, this is who I am. And so just through that journey of discovery, I then discovered coaching, which is also a big part of who I am always been into personal development and leadership development, looking at how I can always be my best self, and I'd always share that with my friends who would be excited about it. So that's kind of how we I got to entrepreneurship. I was like, Okay, well, how do I then take my skills and talents and be able to serve it to the world and, you know, make a living.
Zahra: I've heard you speak, and I can attest it does come across as just second nature to you. So many of us struggle with stage fright, but you give this, "I'm just chatting with a friend energy". Knowing that you're gonna have access to these girls, and you're gonna be able to feed into them, and impress upon them the importance of that self confidence and mindset that they need to have, if entrepreneurship is their path. I just think you can't give him anything better than that.
Bonita: I totally agree. We always hear about the statistics about most businesses fail in the first what, three to five years. I heard someone else really expand that to say, well, it's not that most businesses fail, because they can't succeed is because people quit most people.
Zahra: That's such a great way to put it in perspective. So tell me what inspired you to become a mentor with the high school mentorship program? What, t sold you on it, because it's a big time commitment. It's a it's a big, it's a big deal.
Bonita: And so I delved into the program, in little bits and pieces. So this is the first time of me being a full fledged mentor, I remember just a lot of talk about it, I will say our chapter is just just so dedicated to this foundation, and to the girl. So it's like you can't help but hear about it all the time. But I remember when I went to one of the conferences, and I was amazed at how many girls came out, and the activities, and I was a table facilitator. And it was just, it was just great to see like those girls being able to be exposed. And we were at the A & M San Antonio. And so they got to get on be on a campus and all of these girls at these different schools and just, you know, engaging with one another and just being encouraged and inspired. I was inspired, being amongst them. And so I just feel like, it's so important for us to connect with our girls and to pour into them at a young age. So they're not at that age, I was, you know, still trying to find myself. And so I'm thinking, Whoa, if I had had this at 16, where would I be now.
Zahra: I love that and I think what what is so important about this program at this age and having people like you in these programs to mold these young girls and to give them a different perspective. thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me about your work in our community. Congratulations on all your success.
Bonita: Thank you! I love, I love what you guys are doing.