A Discussion with Sheila Forte-Trammell, a Remarkable 21st Century Global Human Resources Leader (part 2)

Last March, Sheila Forte-Trammell (left) and I (Stan Kimer, blog author) co-presented at the Forum on Workplace Inclusion in Minnesota

Last March, Sheila Forte-Trammell (left) and I (Stan Kimer, blog author) co-presented at the Forum on Workplace Inclusion in Minnesota

During my 31-year career at IBM, one of the most remarkable and insightful Human Resources leaders I worked with was Sheila Forte-Trammell. After over 30 years herself in IBM in a diverse range of HR leadership roles in recruiting, placement, compensation, diversity, learning and employee development, she has now retired and consults as the owner of Total HR Services, LLC.

In Part 1 of this blog (link), Sheila and I discussed the key strategic areas in the future for human resources professionals. In this blog, Sheila and I discuss more about her past accomplishments and current projects.


STAN: Sheila, you have accomplished so much so far in your past career, and you are still having a tremendous impact within the Human Resources Community. What accomplishments that you are most proud of?

SHEILA: In partnership with Dr. Lisa Dragoni and others from the Cornell University Industrial Relations School, a longitudinal study was conducted to show how supervisors facilitate leader development among transitioning leaders. The results of this study were published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, January 2014. The results also reinforced that leaders must model the way (show) and provide instructions and guidance (tell) to new leaders and this approach has proven to enhance and accelerate the development of transitioning/new leaders.

Another accomplishment that I am proud of is acting in the capacity of mentor to several people over the course of my career. At one point I had 25 mentees and this allowed me become creative in engaging in many different forms of mentoring to address the need of my mentees. For example, I utilized group mentoring, individual mentoring, just in time mentoring, virtual mentoring and speed mentoring to connect with my mentees. The relationships that I developed were reciprocal in nature, in that learning was bi-directional. I always tell my mentees that “their success is my reward” and as I see them develop, I achieve a great sense of pride and accomplishment. Despite the fact that I am retired, I am still playing the role of mentor. Here is an excerpt from a note I received from one of my mentees in 2014. “I wanted to send you a thank you note for all you’ve done for me during my time at IBM. You believed in me when I lost faith in me. You planted a seed in me that is growing daily.” This is the type of impact makes me feel I have made a difference.

Lastly, I am proud of having managed a demanding career while raising two daughters (one a Medical Doctor and the other an Attorney) who are contributing to humanity and making a difference in the lives of many people. In essence, they feel it a duty to give back to society in a very positive way.


STAN: In addition you have also co-authored two very successful and widely read books. Can you tell us a little more about them?

SHEILA: “Intelligent Mentoring: How IBM Creates Value through People, Knowledge, and Relationships” helps HR leaders to use mentoring as a tool to develop and harness organizational Intelligence, institutional memory, connecting people for personal and business impact. This book provides a simple process that helps organizations promote collaborative learning; and emphasizes the professional notion of “giving back”. Diversity is a core element of this book and it shows how diversity of thought, style and approaches create a fertile ground for idea creation, creativity and innovation. Finally, this book dismantles the traditional ways of looking at mentoring and instead, mentoring is seen as a high performance work practice that all employees should engage in. This book was listed in the top 10 by Society of Human Resources Management January 2010.

“Agile Career Development: Lessons and Approaches from IBM” has been translated in English, Mandarin and Japanese. This book emphasizes the need for employees to be empowered to take control of their careers, constantly build and refresh their skills portfolio in order to remain relevant to the organization. It helps employees understand that collaboration and knowledge sharing must transcend departmental silos, geographic and cultural difference. Tips are given to HR Leaders on the various ways to “integrate career development into the broader talent management and business strategies.”


STAN: And Sheila, I know that you are still involved in a number of initiatives that are having tremendous impact on the global workplace. Can you share about a few of them?

SHEILA: Since retirement I have been involved in several initiatives and here are some examples:
• I am a member of the Board of Directors, Carolinas Chapter of the National Diversity Council, which has the vision is to transform our workplace and communities into environments where people are valued for their uniqueness and differences, and are confident that their contributions matter.
• I served as Executive Director for the Pleasant Grove Foundation signature program – The Dream Academy for almost two years. This program helps students to achieve their goals and help them acquire essential skills for the future workforce. Participants are ages 5-18 and they are engaged in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), Lego Robotics and Personal and Professional Development seminars.
• Speaker for the Duke University Professional Master’s Program. Focus areas: “Leadership in the 21st Century” and “Personal Branding.”
• Speaker at the American Association for Community Colleges conference.
• Currently serving on the National Visiting Committee for the National Science Foundation – Advanced Technical Education Center of Excellence.


STAN: Thank you Sheila. I look forward to continued teaming and interacting with you in your important HR and community work.

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Sheila Forte-Trammell is now the owner of Total HR Services, LLC. Here professional information is available via LinkedIn (Sheila’s profile.)

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