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

Career musings. Who wears the pants?

I have noticed something in my current job. The shock on my male colleagues face when I say I have a nearly 4yr old and a 14 month old. This is often followed by questions and statements:

How do you do it?
How do you cope with everything?
How do you travel? 
How does your husband cope?
Wow! or Whoa!!

It's generally a disbelief and shock and and sometimes a little judgement. Judgement that I could possibly leave the house with such a small child there. I guess. I'm finding the double standard quite surprising but I'm not always offended. It comes from a curious place. Usually. And when it comes from a curious place I am always happy to explain how my husband Arran and I work it. I myself am curious about the double standard I perceive to be there.

It seems to be ok that men work when they have a little baby, but not women. Has anyone else experienced this? That women somehow have that magic ingredient that only they have, which means they are the ones who need to be the primary caregiver. Of course if the baby is being breastfed then it's a little tricky but on all other matters it's not. I think a lot of women promote this too. I have seen men in the relationship with a small child treated as though they are stupid or unworthy to look after their own child because they do things differently with the kids. 

From the very start when Aiden was a new-born, Arran used to defer to me on lots of issues, because he perceived that I somehow knew how to do something for him, because I was the one who gave birth. Complete crap. I didn't automatically get an instruction manual as my milk came in. Nor was I an expert just because I carried him for 9 months. In the end I said to Arran that I only knew about as much as him and that he could make decisions too. Arran took it all on board and probably became a bit of a baby hog. He had as much or as little confidence as me. That's ok. Made both our lives easier.

I don't believe men get the same questions in the workplace. They don't ask each other these questions, and if they do it's about sharing and comparing and showing how proud they are of their beautiful children. There is no judgement. I don't think men consider judging other men about their children because there is an assumption, in my view, that there is a woman somewhere who is carrying the child care and domestic burden. 

The questions I get the most is "how do you work and travel with small children?" I don't think a man in the same circumstance would get this question. I'm not sure Arran ever gets this question when he is away for the weekend, riding his bike in the middle of nowhere. Will any of his mate's acknowledge or even wonder who is looking after his two boys when he does Tour Divide in June this year? Men seem to acknowledge that it's hard at home with small kids and they will have to "pay" when they get home from a work trip. There seems to be a belief that the man will be in a "points" deficit when he gets back but there is no issue with him working long hours or having to travel away from home. It's ok because there is a woman around and she is expected to look after the kids and tend to the home, whether she works outside the home or not.

I get questions like "how does your husband cope?" Firstly, no one asks me that question when Arran goes away! I am just expected to cope. Secondly, I think it's also offensive to Arran and to men, who are completely capable of looking after kids if only women would just let them. 

When I have to travel for work of course I miss Aiden and Charlie, and they miss me. There are lots of "mum, mum, mums..." from Charlie when I'm not there and lots of "Where's Mummy" from Aiden. I try to do a few things to make the days I'm away a little easier for Arran, who has to take the burden of getting them to and from childcare, caring for them if they are sick and feeding them, dressing them, bathing them and generally making sure they are ok. 

But I enjoy the time away too. How shocking! What kind of mother am I? I enjoy hopping on a plane in my freshly dry-cleaned work clothes free of drool and jam. I like having a little time to myself to read a magazine. I enjoy having a hotel bed all to myself without the chance of being woken by a screaming child and having to fling myself out of bed in the small hours of the morning, to replace a dummy before the crying escalates so much that it will take 30 minutes to settle him down. I like just having to do my own hair and get myself dressed. I like eating breakfast alone in the hotel restaurant or a nearby cafe. I like not having to get up and down a hundred times to tend to some small child's need during said breakfast and then rush them to daycare. I'm sure my male colleagues who travel also enjoy such things. And I like coming home again. Actually the time I came home to a vomiting bug wasn't great....anyway you get the point.

I love my work and the company I work for. I also enjoy working with men. I have always worked in more industrial businesses which have tended to be more male dominated. I often find myself as the only woman in the meeting. I like these businesses because they are practical and down to earth, and I feel like what I do can make a difference. That's all very well but driving innovation and creativity in businesses requires diversity of thought and that I believe requires diversity in the employee group. Different ages, different experiences, different cultural and religious backgrounds, different ways of working, and men and women in different roles across the organisation. 

Inspire me

I wanted this post to be an observation of what I experience at work, as a woman and as a woman with children. I wanted it to be thought provoking and a conversation starter. I asked Arran to read the post before I put it live on the blog, mainly because I didn't want the post to be too critical. I love my job and our workplaces are what they are, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't be challenged and continue to evolve to be places where every person can contribute and be valued, not matter their personal circumstances.

After reading this post Arran and I had a really good conversation about his experience at work and how his responsibilities looking after our beautiful boys are perceived. It's not just women who are struggling. Men who want to contribute equally to looking after their children find it hard in the workplace as well. He suggested I write a follow up post about this but I had a better idea. Arran is an accomplished writer. He writes his own blog called Musings of a Wannabe Racer and has written articles on mountain bike riding for many print and online magazines.

Arran is going to be a guest writer on this blog next week, giving his view of how people in his organisation view his want and need to care for our children equally. Stay posted!

Develop me

Great TED talk from Hanna Rosin on the crisis for men and the rise of women.

Just for me

If you happen to me a mum, like me, you might like this blog called Fox in Flats. It's a fun and inspiring blog to help you to be stylish. Not everything needs to be serious! Enjoy!




Welcome to my blog, I-develop-me. For a while now I have wanted to share what I have learned over the years from my experiences working in Human Resources and Organisational Development for small, medium and large organisations. Some of this experience has been great, some not-so-great, but you know, I have learned a lot! I have worked with some amazing and inspiring people and some who perhaps should only be allowed to work in a locked room. Alone. And I’m being kind. I bet you have worked with someone like this!

The focus of this blog will be helping you to develop yourself in whatever you want to achieve. I’ll be providing tips and tricks and resources to help you along the way. Some will be focused on your career, some on general personal development. The main thing I have learnt is that while organisations often have talent management processes, career development initiatives and learning and development programs and opportunities unless you know what you want to do and where you want to go in your career, it’s not much help. Or maybe you are not part of a workplace that has these kind of resources? Maybe you have your own business? Or maybe you are pursuing interests and goals outside of your day-to-day bill paying job? Maybe you are considering a career change or a tree-change?  Well perhaps there will be something for you here.

My basic premise on career development, or perhaps that should be life development, is that if you are waiting for someone else i.e. your manager, your company or your family or partner to take charge of your destiny then you are in big trouble! The only way to be successful is to be clear about:
  • who you are,
  • what you enjoy,
  • what makes you happy in life, and  
  • where you want to be in the future…
That’s why the blog is called I-develop-me. Only you can take responsibility for your career and your life. I’ll be covering topics to help you work some of this stuff, like; self-awareness, education and qualifications, self coaching, leadership, culture, emotions in the workplace, mentors, life balance, feedback, getting happy, finding your passion…..Is there a topic you want me to cover? Do you have a burning issue? Drop me a line!

I will be kicking off with Education and Qualifications in my next post. How important are they?

In the mean time check out this great video called Try something new for 30 days. My husband bought me a digital SLR camera for my birthday last year and I’m currently participating in the photoaday challenge by @fatmumslim to help me improve my ‘eye’. I’m using instagram and posting to twitter and facebook. Is there something new you want to try? Maybe this video will inspire you?