Ed. Note: At our annual Culturati Summit we present an Innovation Hub of some of the best tools and platforms we’ve encountered in our travels.
We’ve also decided to start using Culturati: Magazine to highlight new offerings we think genuinely deserve your attention.
We invited Ceresa to participate this month because of their particular focus on helping diverse leaders rise. Executive coaching — and leadership development — has been an exclusive, elite activity for too long. They are the perfect addition to this issue.
We met with co-founder and CEO Anna Robinson last week. Below is a transcript of our discussion. Enjoy!
Welcome, Anna! Tell us the Ceresa 101.
In a nutshell, Ceresa is how diverse leaders rise. Our leadership platform provides everything companies need to help their diverse talent grow the career they want — all for the price of a latte per week.
Grounded in a science-based and whole-person approach, we provide tools to deepen self-awareness and set clear goals; stories and insights from world-class leaders and leadership experts; along with a diverse, global peer community to learn alongside. Ceresa tackles the critical problem facing business leaders: growing and retaining all of their rising talent…which they worked so hard to recruit in the first place.
Say more about that — what unique challenges do diverse leaders face?
The word itself — diversity — implies that not all diverse talent have the same needs or face the same challenges. So to start with, it is important to offer really personalized tools and learning journeys.That is a founding principle of Ceresa, and we use data to help drive that.
Yet there are some common experiences for people that remain under-represented by leadership today. Diverse leaders in particular often don’t feel they have permission — to dream or to seize their place — but also just to be who they really are. They want to be seen, not just play a role in a world of someone else’s imagining. This often results in having to play a different part at work — which can be exhausting, and less effective.
Another challenge is sustaining confidence and aspirations to leadership. On some level, Ceresa serves as a “confidence-machine” — helping revisit their life aspirations, set career goals, encouraging them and connecting with a supportive peer community.
Perhaps the most critical role Ceresa plays is access. We all know the role social capital plays in careers. Having access to leaders, role-models, mentors — especially those in positions of power — is critical, yet hugely inequitable today. Ceresa redresses this balance by providing access to lessons from world-class mentors and experts — no matter where you live, how you identify, or how big your bank balance.
In essence, we give emerging leaders the privilege that they’ve been missing — the privilege to dream and access help.
What is your broader theory of change in terms of the philosophy that drives your work?
5 simple things. First, we all need the space and support necessary to do the hard and fulfilling work required of all leaders.
Second, we strive to cultivate deep self-awareness. All great leaders are on a lifelong journey of self discovery.
Third, we all need to set clear and inspiring goals. This is how emerging leaders build momentum and establish a brisk, sustainable rhythm of growth.
Fourth, we all need access to real leaders who have walked in our shoes. Coaches and experts too — of course. But stories from daring, yet relatable, role models provide direct evidence of what is possible and fast-track our learning and careers.
Fifth, belonging to a diverse community of peers — from our own and other organizations — creates daily energy that fuels our growth and ensures that we remain accountable.
Together, these five elements create a mindset shift, instilling agency that lasts a lifetime. This is our work, and frankly my own life’s work.
Where does the Ceresa magic come from? Don’t give us a list. What insight, feature, framework, or belief makes your offering uniquely effective?
Leaders need the right people to learn from and with. Ceresa opens the door to candid discussions about daring, yet relatable role models’ most pivotal moments, raw and uncensored.
Our platform connects leaders to diverse peers from their own and other organizations, who together create daily energy around growth and help keep each other accountable.
No one else is providing rising diverse leaders with access to the tools, frameworks, and networks of leaders that we all need to emerge and grow. We help them see themselves the way they want to be seen, rising through the ranks based on how they choose to define success.
Oh — and we make it fun along the way. What other HR tools do you know that people consistently describe as “joyful” and “something special”???
You focus a lot on next-generation leaders. What do we get wrong most often when it comes to this critical group?
The most attractive middle managers are early leaders who are ready to grow — high-capacity individuals who, if unleashed, will make an outsized positive impact. Within this group, diverse colleagues have the most intense need as they have traditionally had precious little access to the tools, frameworks, and networks needed to emerge and grow. Yet this management layer is where we see the largest drop off in diverse talent progressing through the ranks — hence we’ve made so little progress in diversity at senior leadership levels.
Too often, companies focus exclusively on investing time and resources in “high-potential” talent — yet we all know many performance management processes have inherent bias. Even most leadership development solutions were designed based on today’s leaders, rather than tomorrow’s — in person at fixed times, exclusively focused on professional skills, with a narrow definition of culture and communication styles that work. We know that diverse, under-represented talent has greater responsibilities outside of work — giving them less flexibility to stay for a training at 5pm on Thursday. They need help making their whole lives work. So we need different ways of developing talent that are equitable in access and delivery.
Big picture, middle managers have the worst of both worlds: top down pressure to increase agility and hit numbers, combined with direct exposure to front-line problems and tireless, often drama-filled iteration around them. They don’t yet make enough money to relax, but their expenses are rising — fast. They have new and growing families. They’re in their prime; yet, it’s also very much “crunch time” in their careers.
Middle managers are also the arbiters of company culture as they ultimately decide what passses through, on the way up and down. They have little formal power, but they have gobs of the informal variety.
They’re also the crux of high performance, the seat of data, and the best people in the organization to help the c-suite drive change.
If someone in the Culturati community wants to explore working with you, what is the actual best and most efficient way to figure out if there is a fit?
Reach out to me at email@example.com, visit our website, or ask me for a customer reference!
If you’re interested in being featured as part of our Innovation Hub, whether online in the Magazine or offline at our Summit, send us a line! firstname.lastname@example.org