This is a recording of our live webinar with our hosts Tristan Layfield and Brandon Gordon and special guest Liz Sweigart. They explore the ins and outs of securing sponsorships and mentorships at work.
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SPEAKER 1 0:10
Welcome, welcome. Welcome. Welcome to another episode of access point where we talk to you guy’s cars and cars and early graduate individuals about how to better yourself and better your career. So I want to give just a brief introduction about the corporate about living corporate in some people’s interest and go ahead and talk more about living corporate.
SPEAKER 2 0:35
Yeah, so thank you, once again, everybody for joining us. For those of you who aren’t familiar with living corporate living corporate is a writing and podcast platform dedicated to exploring and celebrating underrepresented identities in corporate America. We are early to mid-career consultants who came together based on our shared desire to have frank conversations about the way we exist, survive and succeed in corporate spaces. As a collective, we represent a broad spectrum of beliefs, cultures, and identities. And we know that our differences have shaped our perspectives and experiences in corporate America. So we want to engage with other voices that often go on heard and have our conversations out loud, live in corporate is for anyone who wants to have these conversations with us and push the needle forward on how we can create and sustain spaces that reflect true inclusiveness. So that’s a little bit about living corporate. And now you guys are here for the access point. And I want to make sure you guys sort of get a little intro into what that is, too. So I’ll pass it back over to you, Brandon, about the access point.
SPEAKER 1 1:39
Thank you, Trisha. Well, the access point is, which is part of the living corporate network. The access point is our weekly web show. But we strive to bring that down prepare you for the workforce. While our carts are for everyone. We are focused on preparing Black and Brown College students just like you for the future work. Every week, we’ll have an incredible guest to help us discussing the topics ahead this head this week, we have our illustrious guest list, item list.
SPEAKER 2 2:05
I’m doing great. Thank you so much for having me here.
SPEAKER 1 2:07
Thank you for being on. So please tell us a little bit more about yourself. What do you do for work? And why did you want to come today?
SPEAKER 3 2:15
Well, first, I want to say thank you to everybody who has joined us today, I appreciate your giving your time and your engagement. I have been involved in living corporate for some time now. I love the podcast I’ve in fact been able to guest host two of them. And my interest really comes from a passion for developing people to be the best professionals that they can be helping people to achieve their goals and their objectives. In Houston, I am actually on the board of an organization called Genesis works, Houston. And we specialize in providing job and life skills training to underserved high school students to equip them for a lifetime of financial independence, primarily through our program that provides paying internships with fortune 500 companies. And this is specifically focused on underserved on students from underserved communities, because we’re not going to achieve equality, equity, or liberation, if we do not focus on providing not just not just the skills and the training, but the opportunities and the access. And that’s what I’m really dedicated to. And that’s what living corporate is here for. And I’m here for it. In terms of my professional life. I am a partner at one of the big four public accounting firms. I have been in the tax practice for almost Well, actually a little over 20 years now. And I especially have specialized in working with multinational companies, helping them to structure the way that they operate across borders. I, I took a professional leave of absence in January, because I have depression. And I have OCD. And I had I had a major depression that I had to recover from. And so I chose to step away from my career and focus on getting my mental health back. So I’m, I’m pleased to report that I’m doing great, but that’s also something that I’m really passionate about our mental health. Our ability to show up for ourselves and each other is all dependent on how well we are mentally, emotionally spiritually. And that’s, that’s something else that I feel is important, especially for people from underserved communities who so often don’t have the access or opportunity to access the types of services that they need in order to maintain strong mental health.
SPEAKER 2 5:07
Thank you so much for sharing that list. I appreciate that. Because I know, I know that it is a really personal thing, but it’s the thing that a lot of us deal with. And sometimes we deal with it in silence, right? So it’s, it’s, it’s, you know, very encouraging to hear, you know, somebody else is doing, you know, it’s like me out there who may be dealing with that very same thing. And I’m so glad that you’re taking the time to sort of, you know, make sure that you are okay, because you can’t you can’t pour into anybody else if you aren’t 100%. Right. So I really, really appreciate you sharing that we, you know, normalizing that conversation, because this is something that should be talked about, because we all at some point in time experience something in the mental health realm, whether they be anxiety, depression, whatever it is. So thank you.
SPEAKER 3 5:56
Absolutely. And thank you. And as you said, you can’t be there for anyone else, unless you can, you can first care for yourself. Yeah,
SPEAKER 2 6:07
Absolutely, absolutely. So, today, I know, we’re going to be talking a little bit about finding sponsors, mentors and allies. And I know you have put together an amazing presentation for us. So do we want to go ahead and hop into that?
SPEAKER 3 6:24
I would love to. So without further ado, I’m going to share my screen. And I just want to make sure that as I do that everyone is able to see the presentation.
SPEAKER 2 6:38
Looking good to me.
SPEAKER 3 6:39
Alright, well, without further ado, let’s get into it. One of the things that you might find interesting about me is that I, in addition to my, to my career, my professional life, I’ve also pursued a PhD in psychology, specifically, organizational leadership. And so I will be sprinkling some of that content in here, I promise not to get too dry or too technical. But there are things that I think are important as we talk about how we look for support in the workplace. So again, I’m excited to be with you. And I’m really appreciative of your taking the time to join and to engage, please put your questions in the chat, I’ll answer as many as I can give you a little bit of an overview, we are going to dig into this model that that I came up with. It’s the way that I think about support in the workplace. We’ll talk about the different types of supporters, we’ll talk about how you can assess your own support. We’ll talk a little bit about detractors. And then I’d like to close with a few things that I think are important to consider. And then we’ll dialogue. So let’s get into it. There are many ways of considering support and organizations. And this is my framework. So I built it on these two main variables that I’ve observed are really important in influencing people’s behaviours and how they show support for their colleagues. So you’ll see the two variables are those lines that cross and the horizontal axis represents people’s investment in you. And by that I mean how invested is somebody in your development, your growth and ultimately your success. The competing or the bisecting axis, the vertical one is looking at how willing are people to spend social and political capital on you. So social and political capital is something that you should think about, like goodwill that people have built up in an organization based on favours they’ve done for others successes they’ve had, it’s, it’s all the positive aspects of their brand and reputation. So as you can see, there are four types of supporters here, casual fan, super fan, sponsor, and mentor. So let’s get to know a little bit about them. So first, I’m going to kind of describe these different types at a high level, and then kind of dig into how power plays a role in determining who falls into which bucket. And also try to sprinkle in some examples of how I’ve seen this in action and how it’s affected me and people that I know. So I want to start off first by saying though, that none of these types are any better or worse than any of the others. They’re all just different roles, and that’s how we need to think about them. So let’s get started with super fans. This is your hype squad. These are the folks who amp up the crowd. They can even come in and give you a break from hyping yourself. These folks are willing to tell anyone and everyone how great they think you are, which represents a form of them putting their brand out There for you. At the same time, although they may really like you, they’re not personally invested in your growth and development. In other words, you’re not their protégé. And when it comes for lobbying for raises or promotions, these folks likely don’t feel obligated to support you or go to the mat for you. They’ve probably already thrown their support behind somebody else. Sponsors are actually a lot like super fans in that they’re willing to spend political and social capital on you. But these folks take it one step further, and they invest in grooming you. This can take the form of bringing you onto their teams, ensuring that you get to work on projects that align with your interests and let you gain skills that you need to advance behind closed doors. These are the people who advocate for your promotion for your raises for your bonuses. They see you as their protégé. So a question I get a lot. How do I get a sponsor? Well, it doesn’t happen overnight. But you can start developing relationships with people you admire, and want to emulate. And then continually seek them out for guidance about how to progress and grow your career. Asked to work with them. Ask them for opportunities. Over time. That’s how you cultivate a sponsor. So mentors are a little bit different. They share sponsors level of investment in your development, but for whatever reason, they’re either unable, or they’re unwilling to extend their social and political capital for you. Now, most often, the reason for this is that even though like mentors care a lot about you, they may not have the juice in the organization to make things happen. And that’s something that comes down to power. So super fans and sponsors typically have quite a bit of power in an organization, they may have the power to determine who gets rewarded, they may have what’s called coercive power. In other words, they can they can punish people. But whatever, whatever their base of power is, those folks have it. Mentors may or may not have it, but they’re not the ones who are going to be pounding on the table for you. So you can ask people to mentor you. And that’s often a really solid approach for early career professionals. Other people I’ve seen tend to prefer to grow their relationships organically, and they develop a mentor relationship based on seeking out coaching. So the key difference here, though, is that with a sponsor, you’re looking to focus the relationship on advocating for your advancement. And with a mentor, the emphasis is more on developing you as a person and a professional. Last group, casual fans, these folks aren’t heavily invested in your success, and they’re not about to spend their capital on you. But this is likely to be the biggest group of supporters, you’re going to have over the course of your career. Most people have a ton of casual fans. Now, casual fans can have different levels of power in the organization. Their power can come from all different sources. But they are they are generally people who want to say nice things when somebody asks them, but they’re not about to go out of their way. So when we think about like how power works here, sponsors are only really able to be sponsors because they have power in the organization. Same with super fans. Now, mentors may or may not have power. If they do often it comes from the fact that they’re experts in an area. Now the power aspect is important because as you’ll see, when we talk through it in a moment, it affects how effective somebody can be as a supporter for you. The most frequent challenge that I have observed for early career professionals in navigating these different types of support roles has been there’s a tendency to confuse super fans with sponsors. And I’ve seen this happen quite a bit with my with what I what I call my pioneers. These are the folks who haven’t necessarily had someone else in their family or close to them be in a corporate space before. And so they encounter people who are really seemingly supportive of them and seemingly supportive of them publicly. But then, then they stop like they don’t they don’t have the follow through there. They’re not the ones who are advocating for them for opportunities on a project or for a promotion, and that can lead to a lot of a lot of confusion and frankly hurt. Now, one of the other things that I think is also important to bring up here is, is that I’ve, I’ve seen a lot of well-intentioned white people appear to be sponsors for underrepresented young professionals. And in reality, they’re just super fans. You know, these are folks who kind of perceive themselves as champions of diversity and inclusion. But they’ve already established protégées, with whom, you know, for him, they’re all in. And so rather than adding a protégé instead, they shrink their support, when it really matters for promoting and, and advancing someone. Now, I’ve noticed that confusing mentors and sponsors tends to happen less. And, and that’s also because it’s not quite as much of an issue. Both mentors and sponsors are committed to your growth and development. And it’s a question really of who has power. Now, you may notice that the word ally is conspicuously absent from this model. And there’s a reason for that all of these types are technically allies, in my experience, ally has become a fairly meaningless term that lets white wokeness enthusiasts feel like we are contributing to the liberation of minorities people. But we’re not actually putting ourselves in any risk. And we’re not really making any effort to enhance the outcomes for black and brown professionals. And so I think that ally, particularly in this context, is we’re trying to think about what to support look like, frankly, pretty meaningless. So there’s lots of different ways to evaluate and assess your supporters. These are the five that I found in my experience to be most helpful in, in letting me work through where people are as supporters for me. So of the four support types, the most amount of effort and time is required from sponsors and mentors. And frankly, it’s on both sides. I mean, we’re all busy. And so it’s really important to recognize who is making time for you when you need it, but they really don’t have it. Like a lot of people will say, you know, oh, my door is always open. But when you come to them, they’re not engaging with you. And I mean, not everybody is going to be able to drop what they’re doing every time you need them. But on balance, your strongest supporters are the ones who make time for you, even when it’s not convenient for them. Now, trust is a major part of establishing a support relationship. And one of the ways people build trust is by being reliable and dependable, and like we just talked about being counted on to make time for you is definitely something that builds trust. But it’s also really important to consider how vulnerable your supporters are willing to be with you. Do they share information that’s personal, concrete, relatable? And do they do it first? In other words, do they seek to establish trust by first opening themselves up to you? Or is it more of a one way street, where they expect you to be open and honest with them, but they hold back. And that’s frankly, one of my biggest flags, my biggest red flags for supporters. I’ve been known to call these people emotional vampires, because they seem to feed off the energy they get from people being vulnerable with them, but then they don’t get anything back. Most often when I have seen this behaviour, it has come from white folks with the Saviour complex. My advice to you on this is that if you have people who seem to want to assume that you will trust them automatically, but they’re not willing to build trust with you by being vulnerable, put them in the fan category, and keep your distance. Now your supporters are there to encourage you. And this is especially true in the case of a mentor. They’re there to give you feedback that helps you grow and develop. It may not always be what you want to hear. But from a good mentor. It’s probably what you need to hear. Now, at the same time, really good mentors and frankly, sponsors are almost never prescriptive. In other words, they don’t tell you what to do. They try to help you figure out for yourself what the right answer is. No often they’ll do this by asking open ended questions that help you think through situations and your alternatives for handling them. Now it’s really important to consider how effective your supporters are for you. Now for instance, if you think you have a sponsor, but they consistently aren’t helping you get on the kinds of projects that you’d like to do. They’re not standing up for you in difficult situations, that’s not effective. And so you really need to think about, are you getting the kind of support that you need from the people that you’re relying on. And, you know, each one of these factors is important. But for me, the most important hands down is, is self-awareness. Because it really links to all of the other areas. So people who know what commitments they’ve made, they’re honest with themselves about their capacity to follow through use their time, well, they’re less likely to over commit. Now, this is something I have been totally guilty of, over the course of my career, I see myself as highly capable. I am. But I’m also not able to be everywhere all at once and I have overextended myself. And when I’ve done this, I have let people down. And I have let myself down in the process. And so this, this whole piece of self-awareness is critical, not just for sponsorship, but also in mentorship, self-awareness is critical to being a good coach, not something I have seen way too much of is well intentioned folks who think that giving helpful professional advice consists of telling you what they would do if they were you. But there are a lot of ways that this can backfire. And this is especially true when the supporter is not conscious of their privilege. So let me let me give you an example. I have been lucky over the course of my career, to have been a mentor and a sponsor for several of my younger black female colleagues. And sometimes they’ve come to me and they’ve said, what would you do in this situation? I, I’m on a team, I feel like I’m being excluded from opportunities to, you know, to be present in front of the client to present our findings to lead meetings. They’re, they’re going to other people. And frankly, they’re going to other people who look like the folks in charge. What should I what should I do? What would you do? And it would be absolutely negligent of me to tell them what I would do as a suggestion for them to follow. I am a white woman who occupies a position of authority in a predominantly white organization. Even if I didn’t have my title, I would still have a different set of privileges in that org in that organizational environment. Now most significant of that is that the consequences for me expressing anger publicly, are very different than those faced by black women in our society. And as a as a as a person who wants to support, I have to be really conscious and very aware about how my personal circumstances may be different, and how the personal circumstances of my mentees, my protégées are going to affect how other people react to what they say and do. As I said, these are things to consider as you develop and assess your relationships over time. Now, some areas are going to show you red flags, others are going to be a little bit more subtle. And speaking of red flags, let’s digress for a little moment and talk about detractors. So there, there really are only two major types of detractors. There are passive and there are active. Now the act of detractors are those folks who are going to go out of their way to try and harm you. But before this gets too scary, right talk too much about them. It’s really important to say that you’re going to encounter some of these people over the course of your career. But it is very, very unlikely that they’re going to make up the majority of the detractors you encounter. Because frankly, hard-core. Active detractors are pretty rare because people are so concerned with themselves, that they won’t really commit their resources to harming somebody else. And I mean, obviously, there are exceptions, and I will I will talk about those. But in general, what you’ll find is the active detractors are bullies, and they thrive in low stakes environments. In other words, they will try to assert themselves as dominant, but when confronted by someone with real power, they will fold and this is where sponsors are the most important. Sponsors can use their power to help you deal with bullies and often I mean, detractors are motivated by malice that comes from racism and sexism, and the intersection of the two. And whether they know it or not, that’s what’s motivating and driving their action. These folks aren’t thinking logically, and they can’t be reasoned with logically. Now, I have I have seen early career professionals really struggle with this. Because at the start, often people don’t have strong sponsors, and they don’t feel like they’ve got somebody that they can turn to, I will be completely honest with you, this is a very tricky set of issues. And the bullies know that what I have seen be successful is a combination approach. It involves working with human resources, as well as your immediate team leaders. If your immediate team leaders or even HR are part of the problem, then obviously it is more difficult. I have been in these situations with extreme bullies. And what I can say is that what worked for me was a combination of getting information from my colleagues who had had similar experiences, and essentially networking to the supporters who helped them. I’m not going to sugar-coat this, it can be really difficult and it can feel hopeless at times. There, there is support out there, and things will change. Now, scarcity is something that also brings out bullying behaviour from active detractors, who are really ultimately just scared for themselves. When people think that they’re at risk of losing what they have, they tend to look for what they perceive to be the easiest targets to attack. But again, in in most of the circumstances, you will encounter the bullies don’t, the bullies don’t really want to spend their social and political capital, not for this. Let’s talk for a moment about passive detractors. So these are the folks who aren’t willing to spend any capital bringing you down. They’re just not really helping your cause. These are, these are the casual fans of detraction. And frankly, over the course of your career, the vast majority of people you’re going to encounter are either going to be a hard neutral on you, or aren’t going to have negative things to say, unless somebody really pushes them. It’s just not worth it for them. And so these people, to the extent you can avoid them, because I found that they mostly embody the out of sight, out of mind concept, if they don’t see you, they don’t think about you. And that’s a good thing. So I know that I have thrown a lot at you really quickly over the last, say, 21 minutes. I seriously appreciate that you’ve stuck with me through it. So as I kind of wrap up the section and get into the dialogue, there’s just a few things I want to leave you with. First, there’s no perfect mix of support types, you want to build a coalition over time that includes some people from each of the types and represents different levels in the organizational hierarchy. And consequently, different types of power. You can never have too many fans, whether they’re casual or super. And at any one time, you’ll likely have one or maybe two sponsors. And that’s to be expected. Sponsorship is by far the biggest commitment. And it requires a degree of power that’s, you know, fairly hard to come by in organizations, you’ll find that you have a lot of mentors with varying degrees of investment in you. Mentors are great, and you should feel free to engage with as many as you can just don’t lose sight of who your sponsors are. That said things change. People were tired, they leave they get promoted. Power is always shifting in organizations. So who supports you and how they do it is going to change over time. And change isn’t inherently bad. You just need to expect it. Now, cultural dynamics and organizations are really important here too. So some organizations seemingly have like a singular set of cultural values and others are more like a collection of groups with cultures of their own. And without getting into an entire discourse on organizational culture, which I can do. The point I want to make here is that an organization’s culture is going to affect how people act as supporters. So in hierarchical organizations, sponsorship often follows reporting lines more than it develops organically. So about once a quarter I sit down and think about who sponsors are, who my mentors are, who my fans are, and what kind of a mix I have with all of those types. When I was getting ready to go up for partner in my organization, which was the, the big promotion, the promotion to end all promotions, I spent a lot of time revisiting my support matrix, because I needed to be able to direct my sponsors, toward the people who I knew that I needed to nudge toward neutral, who were in the detractor category. And also to make sure that I had, you know, firmed up support among my super fans. Now, we spent this whole time thinking about support really in one direction. And that’s how others are supporting you. So keep in mind that from day one of your career, there are other people who are looking to you as their supporter. And it’s important for you to think about what kind of supporter you are to others, and what kind of supporter you want to be for other people. You’re going to have to over the course of your career, try to line up other people’s expectations for your support against your own capabilities and your own capacity. How you show up as a supporter or detractor for other people matters. And like anything else, it’s going to change over time. So again, I really appreciate your sticking with me through this. And with that, I would like to turn it back over to Brandon, interesting.
SPEAKER 2 31:33
Liz, my friend, you gave us some content, okay.
SPEAKER 1 31:42
Honestly, like it’s a lot of information. It’s like, well, I’m just sitting there like, I’m texting Tristan and take some sec like wow, this is this is awesome. And I’m always remember guys hearing they’re like, please raise questions, please ask questions. So we have a few questions in the group. So we have one from Brian Timbo. Brett, last question. He says corporate world is so transactional, how to bring people in to do things that there’s something in it for them.
SPEAKER 3 32:14
Alright, so let me let’s unpack that a little bit. Let’s, I love it. I, I am here for it. So let’s, let’s start with this idea of transactional. So oftentimes we think of transactional as inherently negative. But frankly, the basis of all relationships is something called social exchange. And social exchange happens when one person interacts with another and does something for them. And in so doing, the other person goes, either, wow, I really like you. And I super appreciate that. And I want to do good for you, too. Like I refer to it’s not really the technical term, but that would be the I want to do you a solid form of social exchange. And then there are people who are like, Oh, you did this for me. Now, I’m obligated to do it for you. Because if I don’t, I’m going to get punished. And it’s those two aspects. And usually, it’s the aspect of punishment. That’s what gets people to think that transactional is inherently negative. But transactional just really means exchange. And so yes, here’s the thing. In all of your relationships, there’s some type of exchange. But sometimes the exchange comes from people simply wanting to do something for you, because what they get in return is a really good feeling. Like, I’ll be honest, why do I enjoy coming on here and, and engaging with this? Because through it, I feel good about the fact that I’m being able to take a talent of mine, and I’m able to use it in a way that I hope helps others. So, yes, everybody’s got some reason for what they do. It’s not necessarily negative, where it becomes negative is when they see you as a means to their own end. Right. They dehumanize you, they personalize you, they treat you as a one of my least favourite terms of all time is actually human resources and human capital. You are not an asset, you’re a human being. And when people start to see you as a resource, an input of production that they can use to get a benefit for themselves. That’s where it gets inherently negative. So yes, go into your interactions expecting that it is to some degree transactional because it is but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is negative. Look what to look out for. Look out for people who obviously don’t have any interest in in helping you. Now, oftentimes somebody will come to you with an opportunity. And frankly, they need your help. But it’s also developmental for you. So yes, they’re asking you to join a project or take on an additional tasks. Look for what about it contributes to your goals, aims and objectives? And if it does, dig on it, if it doesn’t look for ways that you can push back in a professional manner. But I would say that that foundationally remembering that there is there is an exchange happening in every relationship, and how you come to that exchange, what you bring, I think that that’s really what defines the value that you’re going to get out of it.
SPEAKER 2 35:56
I love that, Liz, it’s a lot about the intention of what this person is asking you to do in return, right, just sort of figuring out what what’s the intent of all of this as well. But like you said, literally everything, every relationship we have from, from our familiar relationships to our personal relationships, they’re all transactional in some form. So I think, I think, sort of viewing them in a way, viewing them in the way that you presented them sort of helps us, I think, situate that a little bit better. So I appreciate sharing that. Now. Zack, put something in the Q&A section. That’s slightly a comment, swipe your question. The depressing, but exactly. The depressing thing about trying to find a sponsor, while black and brown is that those who are willing, don’t have the organizational power to really move anything for you. Because racism, you know, so with that, like, how do people you know, especially black and brown people, how do we go about finding those sponsors who have that power? Because I know when I looked, when I looked recently, there was a report about it was like being black in corporate America came out. And it basically stated that like black and brown professionals have way lower access to leaders within their organizations than their white counterparts. So how do we go about finding those sponsors that have that power?
SPEAKER 3 37:35
So one, I’m going to preface this by saying that I can share my experience. But as everybody can see, I don’t have lived experience as a black or brown professional. So let me let me start first, by completely acknowledging that Zack is spot on. And interesting, to your point about the study that you read, I’m not surprised that in terms of feeling and experiencing access to leaders, who individuals perceive have the power to advance them, that black and brown professionals are being excluded from that. And a lot of it comes down to something that is it’s referred to as referent power. But it has to think about the word reference, right? And identification, people tend to support people with whom they identify, and the major aspects of identity come down as we as we know, oftentimes to gender, to race, to ability and, and frequently to sexual orientation. And so what I have observed is that it is it is not necessarily going to be a winning strategy, to simply pick someone and say, Aha, that person has power. You’re going to be my sponsor. I, what I what I have seen work, and what I have tried to do is to help folks find people who one they can build rapport with, find areas find areas of common identification, because one of the most important things and getting somebody to be a sponsor for you, is having them see some aspect of themselves in you. Whether it’s your drive, whether it’s it is you know how you have how you’ve come back from a difficult situation or how you’ve established yourself, whatever it is that that kernels really important. And then next, what I’ve seen be really important is Recognizing that sometimes support comes from unlikely seeming places. And what I mean by that is that I have, and this is an I’ll be honest, this is a really tough one to talk about. I have seen, I’ve seen among some of my black colleagues, great disappointment , in the people that they perceived would be their sponsors who are also who are also black. And that they have felt that instead of extending a hand to them, lifting as they climb, instead, they’ve been shut out. And what I what I’ve observed is that in terms of seeking out and building the sponsorship, looking for people with whom you can find a common point of identity, looking for people who continuously just seem to show up for you. And recognizing that the person who becomes your sponsor, or who is effective is your sponsor, may not look like what you initially thought. It is, it is difficult to find sponsorship in organizations where there are not immediate aspects of identification of commonality. That’s, that’s true. And in a predominantly white organization, I would expect that that is an issue black and brown professionals are going to encounter at the same time. It is it is absolutely possible. And in fact, more than possible, it’s probable, you are going to find those sponsors, there are aspects of it that will be more difficult. But again, look for the commonalities, look for people look for people with whom you can build identification, and then be persistent.
SPEAKER 2 42:05
Yeah, I love those tips. I think. Personally, for me, one of the ways that has been beneficial to find those people who have that those common identifiers or identifications is our employee resource groups, I’ve been really successful in finding mentors and sponsors in those groups. You know, typically they have some type of, you know, executive level sponsorship for the group, but there’s a lot of leaders who tend to be in those organizations as well. So it gives you a little bit more access to them, then you would have in your normal day to day interactions most times. So I found that to be useful. I actually found a sponsor of mine by joining a company kickball team actually. Like it. So there was a common point that we met at and bonded over and eventually built a relationship from. So you know, I think what you said, Liz, is very pertinent, you don’t know where it’s gonna come from, you don’t know what it’s going to look like. But, you know, you sort of have to put yourself in positions to be able to, you know, I guess get in front of these people at times and also begin developing those relationships. And if the company’s not going to do it, you got to find certain ways that are already sort of there for you to be able to get that access, right.
SPEAKER 1 43:28
Yeah, I know, for my personally enough, my personal experience, most of my mentors and sponsors really handpicked me to say, Hey, I see something new, I want to work with you, and build one more bigger report with you. And from my experience, as well to the way I’ve also found a few of my, my mentors, and sponsors has actually been a mentor, mentee myself and myself. So I will take the younger engineer and try to show them the ropes of everything that’s going on, somebody else sees that say, hey, if he’s helping taking someone to help somebody else, I want to invest my time in doing as well. So if you make yourself available, not just toward going up, but going down as well, in the corporate ladder, you’ll find that you’ll have more frames of access opportunities individually individuals as well,
SPEAKER 3 44:15
Brandon, that is so I just I think what you really hit on there is so important, because as you said, one, it’s modelling that behaviour, and to we give away a lot of our power. When we think that we don’t have what other people need to you know, to be mentors. We think that we you know, we couldn’t possibly do that. How could How could we mentor somebody we just got here. There is there’s so much that you bring that each of you brings to the table and not giving away your power And recognizing that you have that ability to improve and enhance somebody else’s career, their opportunities. That’s, that’s super, super important because from day one, there are people who are looking up to you. And you may not even know that there
SPEAKER 2 45:23
Is Oh my god, I can’t tell you how many we can. Look, I just find it to be really interesting. One of my one of my, like best sponsor, or mentorship relationships actually came from somebody who was a direct report of mine, actually, she had been with a company for 20 something years, and I had been with the company for five years and leadership, right, the amount of knowledge and, and social capital she gained inside of this organization within 20 years significantly outweighed me even as a leader. So you know, it when you say like, you don’t know what it’s going to look like or where it’s going to come from. That’s another thing that you want to be mindful of. It could just be somebody who’s been there for a long time, but may not actually hold a, a leadership position that still has authority in the organization to
SPEAKER 3 46:20
Yes, and frequently, those people will also discount the power that they’ve accumulated. And so being able to recognize it, and then frankly, going back to what we were talking about a moment ago, in terms of exchange, when you recognize and affirm somebody else, as bringing, as bringing value to the relationship as having something unique as having power, that affirmation is huge for people. And so when you’re able, when you’re able to acknowledge what someone else is doing for you from a sponsorship, mentorship, even a fan perspective, really, that’s really strong.
SPEAKER 1 47:07
We have another question from the group from Payton pain asks, how should we navigate other people of color who aren’t very helpful? Or maybe to track those themselves?
SPEAKER 3 47:18
Yeah, that’s a really tough one. And once again, I’m going to plead whiteness works I know, my membership card. My privilege, totally. So what I would say here is that one of the things that I honestly surprised me the most over, you know, especially when I was when I was much earlier in my career, I came in, of course, with a lot of assumptions and suppositions, and one of them was, well, other women are going to be super supportive of me, because I’m a woman. Ah, um, ya know, what I, what I actually found is some of my biggest detractors were women. And they came from a, they had a series of experiences that informed them, that they were that they were at risk, they were under threat. And so they, they really became quite insular, in terms of how they were willing to engage and their willingness to put their brand their reputation on the line, especially for me, they didn’t know me. But it comes from a very patriarchal scarcity mind-set, where power is entirely determined by competition. And so it’s the idea that there’s a limited amount of power, a limited amount of resources, the only way to get them are to take them from somebody else who already has them. And it is the zero sum game. I don’t actually think that way. I think that if we collaborate and we cooperate, frankly, we can make an abundance like we can create more together than we ever could on our own. And so I have, I have found in some cases that this mentality of scarcity has so overtaken the minds of women leaders who I looked up to that some of my biggest sponsors have been men. And because they didn’t have the same they didn’t come at it from the same place. Now, that said, I have had a number of women who have been really valuable mentors and sponsors to me, but then again, I’ve also had quite a I’ve had a little bit of a career, not a spring chicken. So I’ve had the opportunity to engage with all with all different But I will start by saying that I think that one of the things that I have observed, particularly with black and brown professionals who are often incredibly hurt, and very surprised when they encounter their first, you know, their first leader who looks like them. And that person is not champing at the bit, to champion them, when that person doesn’t really seem to have much time for them, and is not actively supporting and sponsoring them. And I think that a lot of it comes from, frankly, a patriarchal and white supremacist base that holds that there’s only a certain amount of power, there’s only a certain amount of resources. And if I don’t hang on to mine, somebody else is going to take it from me, and I’m going to end up back at the bottom. And so it’s, it’s that scarcity mind-set. And if people are deep in that, you’re not going to shake them. It’s that is that is an entrenched mentality. What you what you do, what I what I did in working with, with women who and when I say women I’m, I’m talking about in this case, it was white women who were not particularly interested in supporting me. What I found that I needed to do was not try to prove myself to them, because they took that as direct competition. They read, they read anything, I was trying to be their friend. And they were reading like, I mean, it was like every possible sinister, like, I mean, they were they were like playing out, like criminal mind stuff, like, you know,
SPEAKER 2 51:48
You’re being mean, girls, pretty much.
SPEAKER 3 51:51
I mean, seriously, it was just like, it was like some sort of behavioural analysis unit looking at me, and like, Oh, and she’s only doing this because of that. It’s like, No, I just brought you cupcakes, because I’m trying to be nice. And I was like, Damn cupcake. Anyway, sorry. Come back. Um, so I would say that, that recognizing where, where people are coming from that, despite, you know, despite your incredible personality, you are not going to convert them. And finding ways in which you can identify supporters who are adjacent to that person, and can corral them as needed. So what this is one of those where it’s like a kind of point, you point your sponsors at the people where it’s like, Okay, if they’re an active detractor, you point your sponsor, and you just nudge them back to neutral. If they’re just not giving you what you need, cut your losses, move on, focus your energy on the people and the opportunities that are giving you what you need to be effective.
SPEAKER 2 53:06
Yeah, that is, that is so key for me. I’ve been in that very same situation, where, you know, I’ve had, I worked in an organization, and there were two black male leaders. And then I got promoted and was a peer of theirs. And seeking some guidance and information, they did not like that. They took everything I did. As you know, I’m in direct competition with them. And really, what I found that’s worked for me is really to understand number one where that comes from what Liz stated, right? There’s a scarcity mind-set, a crab in the barrel mind, crabs in the barrel mind-set where we want to pull other people down so we can get up. And you sort of have to recognize you’re not going to win them over, as Liz said, and I really just sort of stayed away from them as far away from them as I could and didn’t focus my energy on them as long as they did. But I also used it as an opportunity to reflect on how I interact with people who may be coming up after me or seeking mentorship or guidance or sponsorship from me as well, to ensure that I’m not someone who’s a perpetuator of this same situation, right, knowing that this is something that was a roadblock for me in my career, ensuring that I wasn’t a roadblock for someone else. Right. I think it’s a really an important part of that is the reflection, the self-reflection and making sure that you don’t perpetuate that cycle yourself. Right.
SPEAKER 3 54:40
SPEAKER 1 54:41
So we have maybe two more questions left. Yes, yes. So to come, okay. Oh, yeah.
SPEAKER 2 54:51
So I was gonna say, there. The first one looks like it’s from I believe your name is bassra. Please don’t please hate me if I mispronounce it? But they said, Can you please give us some examples of sponsors? And I think that’s a very interesting question. Because I think that sort of, you know, I think that changes and looks different in different ways. But maybe some examples of what sponsors do for people or how they wield their power for people. Maybe that might be a little bit easier to actually.
SPEAKER 3 55:24
I actually, I love the question, because I think it’s one of those, it’s one of those things where, until you actually see it in practice, it can be really hard to visualize, right? If you don’t have a mental model for it. It’s, it’s just, it’s hard to think, what would that look like for me and practice. So let me let me kind of give a few examples of what I’ve seen from people who have been sponsors. So I, I was really lucky to have a sponsor, who knew that, who recognized some of my, some of my core skills and talents, recognized that I was a really good writer, and that I was also good at getting people to come together and produce quite a bit of content that could be synthesized, and then pushed out. And also that I was creative, and how I did that, in terms of how I thought about, and remember, this was back in the day when we you know, made books, for those on the call those are come from paper, which you make from trees. So, back in the day, right, like, when digital was fairly nascent, it was a question of, you know, somebody who could think ahead and be like, you know, we can actually push some of this content on this new thing called LinkedIn. And, and we could, you know, we can bring, we can bring this information in new in different ways. And so he recognized these things that that I was doing. And he had a project that he had been working on for years. And he knew that in order to get it to the next level, it was going to require a degree of creativity just didn’t have, and also, frankly, time and energy and enthusiasm that after, you know, 15 years of working on this project, kind of waning. And so what he did was he said, you know, I see, and again, this is there is a transactional element to this, he needed help. But what he recognized was, instead of saying, I’m going to pull somebody, and just make him do it, because I need this help. He actually said, you know, this is something that would benefit Liz, this would give her an outlet, it would let her show off her skills, it would build her network, and it would raise her profile. And she’d actually enjoy it. Like it’s something that she’s expressed interest in. And so what he did was he just came to me and said, I’ve got this opportunity for you. It involves work on your part, it will benefit me and I need the help. So he was transparent, right? It wasn’t like, oh, I’ve got this great thing for you. And there’s nothing in it for me. No, he was honest. And through that, I had this, I had this incredible opportunity that turned into a lot of publications, and frankly, became part of the cornerstone for the business case, I was able to make for my major promotion. So that was one example of somebody coming in and being a sponsor, and saying, I’m going to use my power, I’m going to use my privilege, I’m going to use my role. I’m going to use my resources. And not only that, he handed me the mic if you think about it. Right. That was that was his platform. And he let me take. And so that kind of thing, somebody is willing to give you their stuff, like you need stuff. And this person is willing to give you their stuff. Something else that I’ve seen be a be a strong sponsor was a guy, one of my colleagues, he, it came to his attention that there was a staff person who had been really badly treated, who had been in a series of situations. And frankly, it wasn’t getting resolved. And it certainly wasn’t getting resolved in in any, you know, anytime soon. And so, what, what my colleague did was he took it way up the chain, and he said, you know, these folks aren’t getting resolved. I am going to put my reputation and my capital on the line. And I’m going to go to the big boss, and I’m going to say to the big boss, this needs to get fixed. And he recognized that it could really backfire on him. Because although he has power in the organization, he’s not the big boss. And if the big boss took it badly, it could come back really badly for him. But what he did was he used his power to mediate a situation where he knew that somebody else needed someone to stick up for him against very active detractors. And that’s what he did. And to me, that was a fantastic example of somebody using their power, using their position to act as a sponsor, and better an outcome for somebody with less power.
SPEAKER 2 1:00:41
Perfect that yeah, I think those were really great examples of sponsorship 100%. Brendan, you want to go?
SPEAKER 1 1:00:49
Oh, no, I was gonna just say, we can have this conversation because I know we have questions about I’m sorry to say we have to wrap this show up the list, we really appreciate you. And also I have notes that you say I don’t want to expound upon those in future topics. So if you want, we can always have this conversation again, we will always come back to the live in corporate access point community and share some your knowledge, listen to everyone, here.
SPEAKER 3 1:01:22
Thank you, I appreciate it. And again, I just appreciate y’all for rocking with us and sticking it out and being so engaged. That’s, that’s just fantastic. And I wish you incredible success in your careers. I am sure that my contact info will get dropped somewhere. But please seek me out on Twitter, seek me out on LinkedIn. I’m here and I’m really happy to engage with you.
SPEAKER 1 1:01:50
Just copying down right now in the chat. So if you want to get in contact with Liz, I put it in, in LinkedIn. I also put my LinkedIn information as well to Tristan, post yours in just one second. Look at pulling all the info.
SPEAKER 2 1:02:12
Yes, Liz, we really appreciate you coming and sharing especially on this topic. I think this is a topic that you know, at least for me, when I was entering the workforce, I didn’t have a lot of information on I didn’t know the difference between a sponsor and a mentor right. And a super fan and a casual fan. It really I think this is very valuable information for anyone entering that the workforce at this point in time. So I really appreciate you coming and sharing this knowledge. We’ll be sending the deck out with the in an email tomorrow. So you guys look out for that and make sure to connect with Liz, she’s dropping all the gyms here. Right? She was over here. So thanks so much, everyone for joining us make sure to pop back in next week. We are you know, this happens every single week. So make sure to pop in next week. And I believe if I’m not mistaken, Brenda, do you know what the topic is next week?
SPEAKER 1 1:03:09
Yes. It’s a setting effective personal boundaries, professional boundaries. Setting effective professional boundaries. Yes.
SPEAKER 2 1:03:23
That’s gonna be a very, very good one. We’re gonna have Tiffany and Brandon hosting next week. So make sure to join us again next Tuesday. So thanks again, everyone. Thanks again, Liz. It was nice seeing you. And we’ll be back at you next season.
SPEAKER 3 1:03:40
Thanks. Thanks, everybody.
SPEAKER 1 1:03:42