Yvonne Garcia’s life of leadership began when her 6th grade teacher encouraged her to run for Student Council President. She knew that young Yvonne was a natural leader, and that students would follow her — and they did. From that day on, Yvonne has never stopped taking the lead when she knows that doing so can make a difference.
One of her biggest lessons in leadership since the pandemic began has been the importance of compassion. With employees experiencing a varying amount of stress and anxiety caused by the uncertainty around the COVID-19 pandemic, as the global head of Internal Communications for State Street Yvonne understood the criticality of empathetic, timely, and consistent communications to State Street’s 40,000 employees around the world. Below, Yvonne is sharing with us the other personal traits she feels are needed to lead successfully in a time of crisis, as well as a few words of advice that helped her become who she is today.
Emotional intelligence is the ability to, first and foremost, understand your own reaction to any given situation. From that foundation of knowing yourself, you are then able to see the world through someone else’s eyes. Finally, true emotional intelligence comes from not only understanding yourself and relating to how someone else might interpret a situation – it is responding in a way that both honors yourself and others involved. It starts with authenticity, but extends to empathy and kindness. Importantly, emotional intelligence is a verb. This is not something that you have, instead it is something that must be practiced and lived – over and over again.
Seeing the bigger picture
I was fortunate enough to work with many other Massachusetts-based leaders across various sectors to launch a nonprofit to help small businesses survive the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic — particularly those that are women or minority-owned. Given the vital role that small businesses play in our economies, and larger societies, it was incredibly important for us to ensure we did all we could to support them through the immediate crisis, and beyond.
You will often hear me say, “it’s just a mother’s intuition.” Although I believe in the power of data and metrics, I also respect the power of intuition. Intuition is a combination of experiences, senses, and instincts that build up over time. It is more of a feeling versus logic, and in my experience, it is often extremely accurate. It can be hard at times to follow your intuition when making decisions because we operate in a world where data analytic and algorithms guide us in decision making, however; I would not underestimate the power of following your intuition.
Letting go of guilt
As a working mother-of-two, guilt is persistent. Working countless hours towards progressing in my career, while still bearing the responsibility of my children, is often an internal struggle. However, I always remind myself that the sacrifices I am making today are for the ultimate benefit of my children and our family. I also aspire to serve as their role model. I realize that children are very observant, and will eventually understand that the sacrifices one makes as a parent are for their own benefit. One day, they, too will become leaders — they will understand the importance of a strong work ethic, leading by example, and paving the way for the generations to follow.
Words of Wisdom
What has been the greatest challenge you have faced personally or professionally, and how did you get through it?
In 2007, I was asked to take an expat assignment in China. My son turned one the day I left, and my daughter was five at the time. The opportunity was to develop a wealth management center from scratch in the region. It proved to be one of the greatest accomplishments of my career, while at the same time, one the greatest personal sacrifices I ever made, given that taking the assignment would mean leaving my children behind.
Describe your family.
Diverse. We come from all walks of life. We are Dominican, Lebanese, Brazilian, Moroccan, Jewish, Catholic, and Muslim. We respect our differences and more importantly, celebrate them together.
What 3 qualities would you like to see young girls develop?
- Confidence: To know that they belong at the table and bring a different perspective that is very much needed today.
- Focus: To stay focused on their goals and dreams, and realize that they are needed.
- Intentional: Be intentional in every decision they make. Do not waste time. Make sure that every move they make is a step towards their ultimate goal.
What’s the best advice you ever received from a sponsor/mentor?
What’s your favorite book/movie and why?
The Leaders’ Bookshelf by Adm. James Stavridis, USN (RET.) and R. Manning Ancell. The authors interviewed over two hundred four-star leaders to get their thoughts and recommendations on the books that influenced their leadership. It was gifted to me by our Chairman and CEO, and I have thoroughly enjoyed it.
Who saw something in you when you were growing up, that you hadn’t seen in yourself? Who was that person and what did they see?
My 6th grade teacher, Mrs. Managano. She encouraged me to run for Student Council President. She said I was a natural leader and that students would follow my lead. Because of her encouragement and support, I eventually became the President.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I like to read, travel, and spend time with family and friends. I particularly enjoy skiing and going to the beach.
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