Stella(r) Leadership

For Stella Shanovich, an audit partner at Grant Thornton in Phoenix, her team is anything but a Good Ol’ Boys’ network or a Women-Only Club. It’s a group of men and women focused on building a dynamic, talented team.

“However, while inclusivity is key, it is also important to understand women and men are different in the ways we lead, communicate and build relationships,” says Shanovich, who became Grant Thornton’s first female partner in the Phoenix office in 2008. “These differences are neither wrong nor right — just different.”

It is the celebration of these differences that has helped Grant Thornton thrive in the valley over these past eight years.

A chief collaboration is “Women at Grant Thornton.”

The initiative, which Shanovich has headed on both a local and national level, focuses on:

  • Ensuring a culture that enhances retention and recruitment of women;
  • Enhancing personal development in client serving areas;
  • Increasing awareness of women’s successes;
  • Increasing the number of women in leadership roles within the organization.

Shanovich and her team connect this mission statement to one or more of the firm’s strategic drivers, including revenue growth, talent development, operational excellence, client service and branding, when considering an event or program for the initiative. Her team identifies the specific audience for each individual effort — be it females, males, seniors, staff, partners and managers or even newcomers.

The result? Five signature education programs:

  • Centered Leadership, which focuses on developing leaders through the way they think, act and communicate to achieve impact;
  • Executive Presence, which focuses on image in the business world;
  • Networking, which focuses on techniques for building productive and mutually-beneficial relationships;
  • Rainmaking, which focuses on cultivating relationships into business opportunities;
  • Conflict Cure, which focuses on awareness through recognizing one’s conflict style as well as how to constructively defuse conflict.

Shanovich and her team have also participated in, or sponsored, women-in-business panel discussions, negotiation skills training, work-life integration seminars and dress-for-success events.

According to Ralph Nefdt, Grant Thornton’s Phoenix office managing partner, the Women at Grant Thornton program helped senior management truly understand that to develop great leaders, it must develop a culture of flexibility. this realization has led to flexible work policies, back-up dependent care, adoption assistance, paid parental leave and more for all members of the team nationwide.

“Today, half of our leadership roles here in Phoenix are filled by females,” Nefdt says. “But the real power of the Women at Grant Thornton program lies in its ‘people focus,’ not simply its female focus.”

As such, the men at Grant Thornton are regularly invited and encouraged to participate in the various activities/events to enhance their skills as well.

“Arizona businesses deserve the benefit of a team dedicated to leveraging their talents to bring innovation and perspective,” Shanovich says. “We bring our clients collaborative individuals who believe in having a voice and being part of something different.”

For more information on Grant Thornton, visit

Arizona Business Magazine July/August 2012