Last month at Leadership Atlanta Women’s Forum, I listened to a panel of top executives share insights on how female leaders can “power up” their own game. I was thrilled that Lynn Zappone, former CHRO of Popeye’s, made the point that women should help more women accelerate their careers by turning a spotlight on their successes and capabilities:
“Shining a light on her doesn’t diminish your own glow. It actually makes you shine brighter.”
This brought a smile to my face, as I had experienced this. Earlier in my career, when I took a new role in a new company, it was tough to break into the culture where they liked their leaders to be “homegrown.” I was an outsider. I launched a new initiative, which actually won the company’s top award for innovation. When it came time to accept the award, I did not go up on stage. Instead, I sent two of my female direct reports to be in the spotlight. That’s why Lynn Zappone’s comment resonated with me. I didn’t take the recognition right then, but later, it came back to me in spades. By shining a light on my direct reports, it made my light shine brighter.
In the initiative TWOthroughYOU, we guide sponsors to think about creating a S.P.A.R.K for their sponsorees. The “S” in S.P.A.R.K. stands for:
Shine a light on your sponsoree and advocate on her behalf. Lynn’s comment above is a great example of why you should shine a light. Below, I explain how you can do that for your sponsorees:
- Illuminate her accomplishments and contributions to your peers and hers. Be prepared to provide examples of where she has excelled and can do more for the company. Have a consistent and open dialogue with her so that you have these examples readily available and know where she desires additional exposure and when she’s ready to take it on.
- Increase her visibility to other leaders by suggesting her for high-profile projects and opportunities. Your sponsoree isn’t always involved in the conversations where these decisions take place. You can identify projects that can develop her, allow her to grow, and give her access to other important relationships. Recommend her. Then, give her the guidance and support to be successful.
- Recognize her good ideas publicly. When her good idea is not heard, be the one to recognize it, repeat it, and thank her for her contribution. Simple recognition can change perceptions.
Women generally have difficulty talking about their own accomplishments. Previous research shows that “women can be penalized for exhibiting self-promoting behavior considered acceptable in men.” Because good sponsors recognize and reward talented employees by speaking up on their behalf, “sponsorship can help high-performing female employees subvert this double bind.”1
That’s why the TWOthroughYOU initiative can be so powerful. Will you commit to sponsoring two women behind you? Two is Doable. Two is Actionable. Two can make a difference.
Now, share your intention with others by pledging your commitment at TWOthroughYOU.com. We will share ideas on how to create more SPARKs and ask you to share yours.
Tell me in the comments: how are you “shining a light?” What actions have others taken to do this for you? If you know someone who does this well, tag them or forward this on!