You are a top performer and have been for your whole career. Your manager knows it and is a great mentor and coach. But what if your manager leaves the company? How well are you known throughout the rest of the organization?
You may be doing very well with your own work group, perhaps even across your business unit. But what about beyond your day-to-day routines and meetings. How many relationships do you have across the enterprise in other units? In other geographies? In different functions?
If the scouting report on you is “she is a top performer, she always gets things done,” that’s good! But it’s not good enough. What is it about you that is valuable to others?
“Stop right there,” she said. “I’m in.”
I was dumbfounded that Ronee Hagen, CEO of PGI, Inc. (a Blackstone Company), had just agreed to join us as our CEO guest at a Signature Program. It was 2013. I had been introduced to her only a few weeks before by a mutual contact who thought we might hit it off with a joint passion for developing more women leaders. But I was just a new entrepreneur starting to gather some momentum and Ronee was the CEO of a company with over $7B in revenue.
But her response wasn’t luck.
The foundation for this successful conversation had started years before that call.
At this point in 2018, you have probably heard the term “reverse mentoring.” It is where less experienced professionals mentor their own leaders. Cox Communications, located here in Atlanta, GA, is doing this using the Wisdom Warriors book to facilitate discussions. Many other companies are employing this relatively new concept to get the most out of their workforce and give their leaders access to the skills and knowledge available in its up-and-comers. Reverse mentoring allows companies to bring new perspectives into leadership conversations and make it a safe space to give and receive information.
“I had a wonderful sponsor in my company who was two levels above me, until she decided to take a position in another organization. Suddenly, I was left without an advocate at my company.”
-Susan Beat, Senior Vice President at Bank of America Merrill Lynch
Research shows that individuals who are most satisfied with their rate of advancement are individuals with sponsors. It’s great to have a sponsor. But it’s even better to have more than one. As Susan found out, there is a risk in hooking your star to just one person in upper management. When that person moves on from your organization, you can be left without a sponsor to advocate on your behalf.