Do you have a career sponsor?

I have a friend, let's call her Molly, who I regard as one of my "amazing" women friends. She has two little boys, one with a challenging condition and maintains a senior business role and a beautiful house. She asked me to do a post on what to do when your career sponsor leaves your business.

My first thought was, I wish I had a career sponsor! A person who takes a strong interest in my career and my career development and who is looking out for me next role, and what I need to improve in to get there. A person who provides me with targeted development opportunities and mentors and supports me as I'm learning. In Molly's case it's her current CEO, who has just resigned. Bugger.

My second thought was, I have no idea!! That was a few weeks ago and I've had a little time on planes to contemplate her question.

So here are my thoughts:

Maintain Relationships with your "A" Team
In Organisations we are all part of different teams. There is the team you work with on a daily basis. This is the group that often report to the same manager. Then there is the team you manage. Sometimes there may be another team, either a functional team or perhaps a project team you work with for a period which is disbanded at the completion. As you become more senior in organisations and part of a Leadership team, your most important team is your peers. This is your "A" Team. The group you are part of with the same leader, usually the CEO or Managing Director. Depending on your organisation you may need to work with and influence people are are the head of functions or business areas such as Sales, Marketing, Finance, IT, Human Resources, Safety, Operations and so on. You get the picture. Many managers make the mistake at this level of thinking that the team they manage is the most important. It's not.

If you can build good relationships with your peer group and influence them effectively you will have a great group of supporters and be effective in your role. I also find this group to be a great source of inspiration and learning. Most people have risen to this level because they have worked hard, are smart, and talented. I have learnt so much about running a business and managing people from working with people at this level.

This group (the same as you) won't always be in these roles. They may move into different and more senior roles within their current or a new organisation who will be great contacts and a potential source of career sponsorship.
Keep in Touch
If I was Molly I would consider how I'm going to keep in touch with the departing CEO. He sounds like a great leader, and a developer of more leaders. There aren't heaps of those around. Molly is a great "connector" so I know she won't find this too hard.

There are no shortage of ways to stay connected both online and face-to-face, and I like to use both. Some people are critical of social media (which is the main online way to connect with others) saying it's not personal and isolating. I disagree. We all lead busy lives and social media provides a way of connecting with and keeping up to date with the lives of colleagues and friends. It's the reason that "smart" phones have been so successful! Humans are social creatures and like to "connect" all the time, through these devices. On a recent trip to Singapore I turned the data roaming off on my iPhone to prevent the exorbitant charges. Talk about painful! No email. No Facebook. No Twitter. No Instagram.....No connection!! It was torture.

I have also met lots of new people online and attend social media meet ups with Social Media Women. It's great fun.

The best way to keep in touch with work collegues online is probably LinkedIn, a professional platform to not only connect with collegues but you can join various groups that meet your career interests and network with people in similar roles across the world. You can ask for advice and read about latest thinking in your area of expertise.

Twitter is also quite a good way to keep connected. It's short and sharp and tends to be slightly less personal than Facebook. I only become "Friends" with work collegues if we have more than a work relationship. I like my lines blurred between work and home however I don't think all my work colleagues would appreciate the photos I post of my kids or the flowers I regularly steal from around my suburb. Actually not all my friends would appreciate this either.....

Of course social media is only part of the equation. It helps you know where people are at but face-to-face conversations are best. Hands down. A coffee every couple of months or drinks at the end of the work day, work a treat. For a better connection go for lunch.

Have More Than One
So who says you just need one? I think the more the merrier when it comes down to your career. If you are good at building relationships you may be able to cultivate a couple. Depending on your goals and interests, consider a person who is an expert in your career area and a person who is a great people manager. Or consider one person who has known you your whole career and understands your strengths and frustrations and another person who doesn't know your history but who you connect with easily and is a good advocate. You will need to make a conscious effort here and really think about who you know and what you need. Not that easy but anything worthwhile isn't.

Inspire me

Develop me

Harvard Business Review is always a great source of trustworthy and well researched information. The Real Benefit of Finding a Sponsor talks about how important it is for women to have sponsors if they want to reach the "C-suite".

Just for me

Working out your purpose: 3 ways

My last post was all about understanding your "why" or your purpose. Once you can define this and really know  and understand yourself, your career and life choices become much easier.

This is not an easy process and it takes time and reflection. It can be frustrating if you know you are not enjoying where you are at, but don't know how to move forward. I once worked with a lovely colleague, who has now become my friend, even though she lives on the other side of the world. She would often say to me "If only I knew what I wanted to do, then I could work towards that". She is in her fifties and still working it out!I I think its pretty normal to not know your purpose. I received lots of comments about my last post from people who needed help working out their purpose. It seemed to make sense that I should pull together some ways to do this.

You might be fine with the first suggestion below. If you need a little more time and effort to work it out, try the third one.

1. My first suggestion is a good one if you have a fair amount of self awareness already. I have been a participant on leadership programs where I have used this technique. It works well if you take it seriously and take some time out. Find a quiet place and sit with a pen and paper. Writing is a great way to bring clarity to your thoughts. Answer the following questions:
  • How would you describe yourself?
  • When do you feel most alive?
  • What interests you most about yourself?
  • What types of situations do you feel most at ease in?
  • What types of situations do you feel most uncomfortable?
  • What situations stress you?
  • What is your definition of success?
  • What do you love doing in your spare time?
  • What do you do in your current job that you would continue to do, even if you weren't being paid?
You might like to come back to these questions over a few days, or a week. Once you have been able to answer all these questions, review your answers. Can you summarise them? Hopefully this summary will help you understand what you like and don't like, and what your purpose might be.

2. At the Simon Sinek workshop I attended one of the audience asked Simon "How do I work out my why?" and he answered with the following:

Ask this question from some of your good friends, who you respect: "Why do you like being my friend?" Your friends will sqirm and try not to answer. Keep at it. They will say things like "I don't are nice....we hang out are funny.....(it's a bit like asking your partner why they love you!) Keep at it! Keep asking. Eventually they will start saying things like "I like myself more when I'm with you" or "You inspire me". This is the good stuff! Ask some more questions like "Tell me more about that" or "How do I inspire you?"

Simon has some great online tools which you can fine here.

3. Sometimes you find great books at the airport. I was recently in Changhi airport in Singapore, waiting for my flight home to Sydney and came across this book Business Model You: A One-Page Method for Reinventing Your Career. It's a comprehensive way to work out who you are and what your career purpose is and it helps you put actions in place to make change. It's well written and thoughtfully set out with great graphics. It includes real life examples of how people have used the Personal Business Model, which is my favourite part of the book. If you are really struggling to work out your purpose you could work through this book over a number of weeks or even months and I think you would have your purpose clearly defined, as well as being inspired by the people featured in the book. There is also a great website that supports the book.
        Business Model You

Inspire me

David Kelley discovered his purpose while sick with a potentially fatal illness. I'm not suggesting you get sick to find your purpose but it often seems this is a catalyst for many people to work out very quickly what matters and what makes them happy. In a TED talk David reveals here that everyone has creativity and that you just need to build confidence to use it.

Develop me

Do you know your purpose? Well what are you waiting for!? Larry Smith knows all the excuses as to why you will fail to have a great career.

Just for me

Two Lists You Should Look at Every Morning is a Harvard Business Review blog post about staying focused in a world of distractions and the two lists are easy to implement.