This is the third and last part of the book “forget a mentor, find a sponsor” written by Sylvia Ann Hewlett.
You have homed in on your dream. You can see your destination, shimmering there on the horizon. And you have got in hand, finally, the road map that will get you there.
There are hazards to be warned about. The hairpin curves where you could veer off the road, the potholes that could swallow you whole. To negotiate these, you will need more than driving tips and tactics. You will need GPS.
You will learn about three career pitfalls. Coaches hardly talk about them. Awareness is your best defense, so heed wisdom, hold on to your road map and i have every confidence you will stay on track.
- Sex. Sponsorship is a necessarily close, even intimate relationship. Getting to know each other well enough to establish trust demands regular one-on-one encounters, possibly over the phone but more typically in person, sometimes at work but oftentimes outside of it. Though these meetings may be strictly business, they can be and indeed often are misconstrued when they take place between a senior male and a subordinate female, because of the potential for a sexual relationship. What can be done? Let’s acknowledge that sexual tension in the work place is a problem that is not going to go away. As long as men and women are in proximity, sex lurks as a possibility. As a young ambitious woman, you cannot allow the threat of sex, scandal or innuendo to keep you from cultivating sponsors, not in good times and especially not in bad. Do not have an illicit affair with a superior. Relentlessly telegraph professionalism. flirting is a no-no. Sexually loaded jokes are off the table. Meet your sponsor in public. Be up front about the personal or family commitments you value. Introduce your spouse or significant other to your sponsor. Be clear about what you want and where you are going. When the gossip mongers identify you as a leader’s favorite, prove you warrant singling out. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is acknowledge that nothing can be done and leave.
- Distrust. Distrust is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Minority professionals who distrust those in power effectively deny themselves the support they need to realize their leadership potential, further reinforcing their conviction that leadership at their company is not interested in people of color. Here’s what you can do, master the social banter. This was you are establishing a personal connection. Sponsors tend to trust people they know. Draw on your background to drive value for the business. Propose a project that positions you as a problem solver or innovator. dare to ask for help. If you are passed over, find out why. Your outspokenness can win you the job!
- Executive presence. No man or woman attains power or exerts influence without it. Executive presence is that aura of confidence and competence that convinces others that you deserve to be in charge. Do you have it? Are you getting the feedback that you need to acquire it? How you act (gravitas), how you speak (communication) and how you look (appearance) count a lot in determining your leadership presence. These three pillars do not stand independent of each other. Your communication skills help project gravitas but great speaking skills are not enough. You have got to be attuned to use them at just the right moment and know when to turn up the warmth and humor and when to unleash the pit bull. Exuding confidence is something any good actor can manage, but projecting credibility as well as confidence as you’re riding out a crisis is truly the mark of a leader.
You get sponsorship because you have earned it. Learn from your mistakes, become much more intentional. For every ‘get’ you need to ‘give’. Discover your special currency. Absolutely lead with a yes and lean in with everything you have. Give a 110 percent and stand firm in your loyalties. Target the right leaders and get in front of them. Build your castle and embrace your dream!
Dream big. Build a magnificent castle. Adorn it, embellish it, and hold it in your mind in glorious Technicolor. It will power you through the tough times, and when you arrive, you won’t be disappointed. I promise you.