Monique Russell is a Communication Skills Expert and owner of Clear Communication Solutions, LLC. Monique will also be a featured speaker at the Do Better Business in 2022 Virtual Event on December 8th! Learn more about her story and leadership helping businesses redefine their visions.
Tell us about your education and background
I started speaking professionally at the age of 8 years old in front of a group of 100 at church. It was my dream to be on TV to cover investigative stories. So, I formally studied Broadcast Journalism and left with a Bachelor of Science in Broadcast Journalism, and two Master of Science degrees in Public Relations and Advertising. Aside from a short stint in The Bahamas and in Minnesota, my daytime TV stardom has been in my mirror at home.
But seriously, I did not land the TV reporting job of my dreams and in retrospect, I am so glad I didn't. I investigate people's stories every day in my practice, and my background equipped me with everything I needed to do that successfully.
In addition, I taught Public Speaking and Communications at the university level for over 7 years before becoming a Subject Matter Expert (SME) where I was responsible for designing the curriculum each student would complete before graduation. I've been on every side of the learning experience which provides me with an unmatched advantage as a coach, speaker, and trainer.
I added a few other certifications and credentials over the years as I develop my craft. I am a lifelong learner who loves to travel and read.
What was your first job?
My very first job was at the tender age of 12 years old working in my grandfather's construction company as a part-time receptionist. My job was to answer the telephone and tell people who came into the front office that grandaddy was "busy".
I didn't know it then, but I know it now...I was observing and absorbing lots about business. I saw employees who slacked off when management wasn't around; I saw business partners who decided to collaborate only when it suited them, and I saw the challenges firsthand of what it was like to lead a business wearing many different hats.
From then, I worked in a few of my other family members businesses', gift shops, bakeries, grocery stores, tennis academies, and more. I am beyond grateful for these early exposures because it solidifies the importance of generational impact and exposure in the work I do today teaching women leaders and teams how to use effective communication and leadership skills to meet their goals.
Describe your most pivotal career experience.
My most pivotal career experience came from stumbling across a professional Women's group called WATTS (Women Aspiring Together to Succeed). It was in that community, I found a new way to set goals using a Vision Board, and leveraged the power of community.
Shortly after that experience, I began to lock my hair, and pursued freelancing which is how I started my business.
Who is/was your mentor and what was the most important lesson you learned from them?
I have so many mentors that I learn various things from. I cannot name them all, but here goes a few. Bob Marley was one of my earliest mentors. I took him, his music, and his energy with me when I left the beautiful islands of The Bahamas to go to school in cold, Minnesota. He taught me to be a revolutionary through his actions to challenge the status quo.
Nelson Mandela was another mentor to me. When I touched his prison cell in South Africa, I literally cried. I could not, and honestly still do not understand the depth of what it takes to be so forgiving and loving when you've been robbed of most of your life through imprisonment because of racism. He taught me and teaches me the depths of love.
Lauryn Hill was a mentor. First of all, the woman can sing, okay! But she taught me to be true to myself no matter what and in-spite of what it may look like to the outside world.
Jack Canfield, author of The Success Principles has been a serious personal development mentor. He taught me to take ownership and responsibility for my life and opened me up to the power of creative imagination and manifestation. I can't begin to tell you the outcome and impact of this on my life. It's partly why I successful today.
Iyanla Vanzant has been a spiritual mentor and communication skills mentor. I got a chance to spend three days with her and she continues to share wisdom and guidance on getting to the ROOT of any communication breakdown and ill-using the divine power.
Les Brown taught me about the power of humor and inspiration in delivering keynote speeches and how important it is to leave your audience feeling whole.
As I said, there are literally hundreds of mentors that I learn different things from but these are a few who made a significant impact on my life.
If you were/are a mentor in your field, what advice would you give to younger colleagues?
When I mentor young professionals today, I tell them to focus on emotional intelligence. The elements of self-awareness, and understanding, and embracing all parts of who they are is the gateway to achieving excellence. When you do this, all the technical skills you are already good at or can become great at elevate.
I would not change anything in my life because it all made me who I am today, but if I could add anything, I would introduce coaching, therapy, and spiritual tools much earlier in my development. It is THE secret weapon to living a life you deserve and desire.
What are you most proud of in your career?
I am most proud that I have been able to take my strengths, skills, and abilities and package them in a way to elevate my career in a way no company or organization could have ever done. My success is not based on the brand, equity, or a title from an organization. It is based on the brand, equity, and title of my own business, Clear Communication Solutions, LLC which services and advises many other Fortune 100 and Fortune 500 global companies.
This is the single most important aspect I teach women business owners and leaders. That it is possible to benefit and profit from your own wisdom, expertise, and brand and that you do not need to belong to any clubs, be featured in top magazines, or come from a wealthy family to make your mark.
If you could change anything in your industry, what would it be and why?
I am in the Professional Training/Coaching and Management Consulting field. I would ensure that the Chief Coaching Officer sat on the same level as the CEO and CFO and not under the Human Resources function. The level of development is that important for future success. I am really glad to see a lot of improvement in this area though because we are now able to support people in more transformative ways which help them to get the most out of their days at work.
What lasting contribution do you hope to make to society/the professional world?
As a Global Leader and Strategist, I intend to transform the conversations around Diversity and Inclusion among Black cultures. I've begun to do that with my podcast: Bridge to U: Understanding and Black Unity.
I intend to create pathways in the new economy leveraging Africa as the new Human Resources offshore location of the future. The median age on the continent of Africa is 20 years old. With the youngest population in the world, innovative ideas are rampant because problem-solving is embedded as a part of daily life for many people. This is why many Western companies are exploring this dynamic now. It is not without challenge, but the opportunity is great.
Being a multicultural leader and communication skills expert, I will provide the same level of skills training, and capacity development that I provide my existing world-class clients like Amazon, Google, and the world's busiest airport, Hartsfield Jackson International to business owners and leaders who want to accelerate wealth while including a social good component.