With a diverse executive team, there’s a greater chance of equality throughout the agency. With a diverse team at the top, there’s an authentic inclination to want to make sure all different versions of talent are highlighted throughout the agency.
I had the pleasure to interview Myriah Mhoon. Myriah is the current CEO of New Life Center, one of the largest domestic violence shelters in the country with 104-beds. They provide a comprehensive program using the trauma-informed care model to support families in starting independent lives — free from violence. In addition to shelter and safety, New Life Center provides the necessary living needs for all its residents. Mhoon has been a direct service provider as a social worker, but most recently, became a statewide leader working at the Governor’s Office of Youth, Faith and Family. Mhoon oversaw the Arizona Governor’s Commission to Prevent Violence Against Women. During her three-year tenure, Mhoon led the domestic violence awareness campaign, Lighting Arizona Purple. In 2016, she sat on Arizona’s Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kit Task Force, guiding the governor’s office with recommendations to combat the backlog of rape kits in the state.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I always had a passion for helping others but never thought anything big would come of it. My first passion is of the arts, so I defiantly caught friends and family off guard when I directed my path to Arizona and went into the field of social work and trauma response. During college, I had the opportunity to run a women and children’s homeless shelter, and immediately knew I found my calling. I am fortunate to say that every full-time job since has been within my career path.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I personally think the path to my career has been very interesting. My friends joke that I have worked every odd job out there because typically, the field of helping others doesn’t always pay the bills. Seven years ago I was working part-time as a social worker, cleaning houses, on food stamps, and trying to master being a single mom of a 2-year-old. After waitressing, house cleaning and working in retail, I got to the C-Suite in an expedited time frame by keeping my eye on the big picture, working my butt off, not listening to the well-intended questions of “why do you want to do this?”, and making sure I had goals that would feed my career passion.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I was working at the State Capitol and got on an elevator with my lunch which was extremely fragrant. I accidentally took the elevator to the wrong floor, and when the doors opened a highly VIP elected official walked in with secret service. We had a pleasant conversation but the elephant in the room, which was my stinky lunch.
Can you share three reasons with our readers about why it’s really important for a business to have a diverse executive team?
1. With a diverse executive team, there’s a greater chance of equality throughout the agency. With a diverse team at the top, there’s an authentic inclination to want to make sure all different versions of talent are highlighted throughout the agency.
2. Diverse leadership teams give an agency the advantage of a larger breadth of experience and viewpoints.
3. A diverse leadership team is usually more reflective of their staff population. Making staff members have a tangible opportunity to aspire can increase staff retention and motivation.
More broadly can you describe how this can have an effect on our culture?
Ability and leadership know no barrier, but sadly we haven’t always been able to see that statement to fruition within the C-Suite. Diversity in leadership has the potential to change so many cultural norms, plus specific equity and power dynamics within our society.
Can you recommend three things the community/society/the industry can do to help address the root of the diversity issues in executive leadership?
Rethink the interview process. The traditional resume and Q&A interview squares off a person and makes it hard to see the whole picture. Focus on creativity, interpersonal communication skills, and the person’s ability to think outside of the box. In the nonprofit sector, diversity in the C-Suite isn’t the only thing missing. Lack of succession planning can ensure that a strong company remains just that. During succession planning, diversity should be acknowledged when looking for talent.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Leadership is juggling on a tight rope, but with ease and grace! Leadership requires a person who is edgy enough to even consider getting on a tight rope while juggling. I enjoy the balancing act and the ability to flex every part of my brain in a day’s time. You have to strive to figure out how to master your role with more ease, to sustain your energy and prevent burnout.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
1. Stay the author of your own journey. There are many people that didn’t believe or understand my ability and unintentionally tried to stunt my career.
2. Let it go! There is so much that happens in a leadership role. With all the struggles and mistakes, learn from them and then LET THEM GO.
3. It’s not personal. Develop thick skin!
4. Be comfortable saying “no” to people, places and things.
5. Find time to bring humor and self-care into the C-Suite.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
This may sound very simple, but as a society, we’re struggling to find respect and humanity towards one another. A movement is needed to show off authentic relationships with individuals that are nothing alike and/or have polar opposite beliefs. I have both working and personal relationships with people who think and believe differently than me. Building a relationship based on mutual respect is beautiful and so necessary.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“I can tell you that what you’re looking for is already inside you” –Anee Lamott
Finding my strength to enter into the C-Suite came from knowing I already had the ability inside of me.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Anne Lamott and David Sedaris. Both have made me reflect and laugh more than any other author. I aspire one day to write a book, so sitting with the best would be a huge gift.
Side note to Anne and David, I’m willing to travel to San Fran and France for our dates!
How can our readers follow you on social media?