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Finding Your “Team You”

I just saw probably the 1000th article on how to find the right mentor. It seems to be the career advice du jour. It’s not that I don’t believe you need a mentor or that mentors aren’t effective, I’ve had plenty, and they were all awesome. It’s the moniker. We’re giving the variety of people who guide us along our career path all the same label. By giving them the same label, we’re not describing nor maximising the relationship to its fullest potential.

Consider the word “coach” in the world of American Football. I did a quick search and found no less than ten different roles in the team. My guess is the “Linebacker coach” brings something uniquely different to the team than the “Quarterback coach.” Sure, they are both called “coach,” but the players work with them in very different ways and look to them for very different needs. I have no idea why I chose this analogy as, unsurprisingly, I know nothing about football. However, it works, right?

I have no doubt you have a team of coaches or mentors to support Team You in your professional life. I’ve come up with a few new labels to help you build your support team so that you too can go to the Superbowl of your life:

  • Champion – also known as a “sponsor.” This person uses her relationship capital to elevate you.She’ll recommend you for jobs, opportunities, and promotions. I’ve found that often you don’t know someone is a champion because she doesn’t often tell you that she’s championing you in that proverbial “room that you’re not in.” She knows how to articulate why you’re awesome and share that story whenever she can. The tricky part in having Champions – you can’t choose them, they choose you.
  • Advisor – as close to a mentor as you can get. This person spends time with you discussing ideas and options. She brings her experiences to the conversation to provide different perspectives and solutions. The key strategy to keep in mind with advisors is diversity. If you’re looking for experience and perspective, create the most diverse pool of advisors as possible.
  • Educator – your education doesn’t end with a diploma. Today’s ever innovating workplace requires a “constant learning” approach. As you continue to learn, you need a teacher. This person educates you on the language, customs, processes, and concepts of her specific area of expertise. I have and had Educators in IT, Finance, Legal, Marketing, and all sorts of departments in my previous roles. Steven Covey’s concept of “Seek first to understand then to be understood” could not be more relevant in this area.

Think about this: All of these people could have the label of “mentor.” That label is far too generic to garner positive results from one-on-one interactions. You need to clarify each mentor’s role to take full advantage of her advice and support.

Take your current list of mentors, map them against these new categories, and ask yourself:

  1. Are any holes in your coaching staff?
  2. By understanding their role on “Team You,” would you approach your interactions with each person differently?
  3. Are some people playing more than one role? Should they?

Conversely, If you’re managing people, are you providing these three different resources to your team?

With a final American Football analogy, consider the role and title of Head Coach. It’s interesting that in sports they use the word “head” while similar labels in the business world use Chief or President. Sports authorities have realized the importance of recognizing the role of mental performance along with physical performance for ultimate success. [My friend Grant Parr is an expert on this concept. Check out his website: gamefaceperformance.com]

You need a Head Coach on “Team You.”

My version of the Head Coach is Chief Belief Officer (CBO). This person not only believes in your particular awesome but tells you as much. Figuring out whom you want to be and what impact you want to have in the world is a surprisingly lonely experience. Having a CBO to call on to believe in you when you’re having doubts about yourself, your ideas, or your goals is often the magic elixir you need to move forward. That is the conversation you have to get out of your head and act.

When someone believes in you, is there anything you can’t do?

Build a Team You. Include and define your Champions, Advisors, and Mentors. Finally, find that most important role, find that Chief Belief Officer. With this team, you can win your personal Superbowl.

Be Curious: What We’re Reading

We are voracious readers and podcast addicts at The Amplify Lab. We’ve chosen a couple of newsworthy items that really opened our eyes to some new and amazing ideas and made us think outside the box, beyond our knowledge sphere.

7 Leadership Lessons from Bill Belichick and 6 Other Championship Coaches.” by John Eades in Inc.
Here are a few incredible takeaways from coaches who hoisted trophies in 2017.
Photo by Abigail Keenan on Unsplash

5 Powerful Leadership Lessons from Major Business Icons Steve Jobs and Elon Musk” by Sylvia Lafair in Inc.
Master any one of these five major ways of leading and you’ll be stronger and more effective in all areas of your work and life.

 

 

By the time a man is 30 he’s had 500% more practice asking.

Do you practice asking? Would you be interested in letting me practice with you?

See what I did there? I just practiced asking.

If you were sitting across from me, I’m sure I’d get a bit of a WTF look right now. Let me explain…

I think women are behind on the proficiency curve of mastering the art of asking. I believe we’ve been behind for a while, and we’re still playing catch-up. If we want to own our part in closing the compensation (note that I didn’t use the word “pay” here) gap, then we need to be better at asking.

So when did we start getting behind at practising the craft of asking? Look no further than your first boy/girl dance somewhere around 12 or 13 years old.* Cast your mind back to the streamer adorned, disco ball ambiance of your school gym. Are you there?

As I remember it, most of the boys were plastered against the wall on one side of the room, and most of the girls were clumped together giggling on the other. And what’s happening? The boys are trying to stand out, be noticed, trying to pluck up the courage to ask a girl to dance. The girls are waiting, waiting for the guy to ask them to dance.**

Now my awesome lady friends, reading this I’m sure you’re thinking: “No! Wait! I danced by myself. I danced with my friends.” You might have even asked a guy to dance. Think about all the guys you know. How many times have they done the asking vs. how many times you’ve done the asking when it comes to asking you to dance, on a date, for a drink, to the movies, to marry you? Yes, I’ll confess, as bold and self-assured as I am, I followed tradition, and waited for my husband to propose to me. Continue reading “By the time a man is 30 he’s had 500% more practice asking.”

Replicate Others’ Success or Craft Your Own Path

“How would you describe your approach to your craft, your program?”

I was led to answer this question when I told a friend that I was taking a Master Class from Steve Martin. I was gushing about how he thinks about the whole performance of comedy. Seriously, if you have any interest at all, check it out. I honestly enjoyed the class. Bonus: it was Steve Martin.

There was, of course, a ton of fascinating information on everything from how he crafted his personas to editing each and every single joke with a preciseness that only comes from being the perfectionist and craftsman he is.

What piqued my interest, and something I wanted to share was his discussion about trends and leaning into new ones, or even creating one yourself.

Steve reminisced about what a working, successful comedian looked and sounded like when he was first breaking into the industry. Most other comics dressed in jeans and leather jackets sporting long beards and shaggy hair. It was the late 60’s and early 70’s; I’m sure you get the picture.

He realized he should be different. He needed to be unique to be seen. In his class, he discussed the importance of “looking for the vacuum” rather than being like everyone else. Continue reading “Replicate Others’ Success or Craft Your Own Path”

How to Hug an American Gladiator and Other Musings On Asks

When I was in my early 20’s, I did some ridiculous things. Some were ridiculously awesome. (Seeing American Gladiator’s Live as a birthday activity – trust me, we were over 21. It was totally awesome!) Others were just plain ridiculous.

One of the more ridiculous things I would do fairly frequently was standing on balconies and in doorways with my back to whoever was my Crush Of the Moment (COM). I had this narrative that posing myself in these places and if the COM liked me, the COM would be compelled to walk up and hug me from behind. Like they do in the movies.

No big surprise, disappointment was a normal part of my life.

Yes, I know. Judge away. Fortunately, I have since got a clue and learned to tell my COM, “I think that someone hugs you from behind is the greatest!”

Hugging commenced. I was much happier.

The lesson that took me a while to learn: When people like you, they want to help you. However, they can’t read your mind, so determine your ask. If you want to make something happen, make the ask easy for the other person too. Continue reading “How to Hug an American Gladiator and Other Musings On Asks”

You Date a Company; You Don’t Marry It

I’m taking a little break from the Balance Series. This week includes a little insight into some of my rhetoric I use when out inspiring people to play a bigger game for themselves.

Last week I found myself talking to amazing women at a couple of events on how to articulate their awesome. On both occasions, I reiterated my standard theme:

You date a company; you don’t marry it.

I constantly use this phrase as a frame for referencing the different “dating” phases you, as an employee, go through.

Phase 1: Swiping Right on Tinder vs. Looking a company up on Glassdoor
Phase 2: The First Date vs. The Interview
Phase 3: The First Blush of Love vs. The First 90 days on the job
Phase 4: Saying “I love you” vs. Getting your first big project

These side by side analogies are endless; however, most come to an end with the inevitable breakup. Continue reading “You Date a Company; You Don’t Marry It”

Do You Know What You’re Great at Doing?

When I was about 9 or 10 years old, I got in trouble in school for bartering snails for colored pencils. Yes, my school mates traded their beautifully sharp and colorful Caran D’Ache pencils for slimy yet speedy snails. Interestingly, it wasn’t bringing snails into the school that was the problem. It was the deal making and wheeling and dealing manifesting on the playground instigated by yours truly. Clearly, my entrepreneurial spirit was not encouraged where I went to school. Such a shame. And just in case you needed further evidence, my bartering wasn’t limited to snails. I was a conker broker as well.

I didn’t recognize it at the time, but this was one of many shenanigans as a precocious little girl which should have clearly shown me a path to a career in sales. It’s always seemed second nature to me to find a solution a problem or provide resolution to someone else’s. If there’s a win for both of us, that’s even better. The question “why might they want this?” is always foremost in my mind.

And what does this flashback have to do with the idea of balance? The first step on the path to finding team balance is knowing yourself. Continue reading “Do You Know What You’re Great at Doing?”

Looking at the whole and not just the role

Welcome back to part three of the “Balance Series.”
Read Part I: How can you be courageous so you can be brave? and Part II: Do you practice organizational empathy?

I’m not sure if my first exposure to the concept of talent balanced teams was an accident or if it was just the first time I was mature enough to notice what was going on. Either way, it totally changed the way I thought about building leadership teams.

Back in the early 2000’s while I was at CNET Networks (soon to become CBS Interactive), I was part of the team that supported the sizable and complex sales organization. I was partnered with the Client Services lead Stacey DeLarios and the Ad Technology lead Adrian D’Souza.

If you ask me how life is today, I generally say “crazy, but good crazy.” However, that period with Stacey and Adrian was genuinely bizarre. It was the beginning of the tech bubble explosion and we were just as impacted as our friends. What it meant for us, however, was this weird combination of almost annual (and terribly painful) layoff rounds, accompanied with this continued acquisition of new brands and companies into the portfolio.

During this period Stacey, Adrian and I leaned on each other in a way that I’d never experienced before. It wasn’t planned or even discussed, but we had this immediate and mutual respect for our individual talents. Not only that, but we sought each other out to work through problems that weren’t necessarily in our “lane” of responsibilities but were in our “lane” of unique talents.

We were in the thick of it at the time and didn’t recognize how this mix of gender, personality, talent, culture, skills, style (I could go on) actually worked better for us as a team. It was when Adrian left several years later, Stacey and I noticed the hole. It was never quite the same again. Continue reading “Looking at the whole and not just the role”

Do you practice Organizational Empathy?

I was reminded the other day about the first time I was hired to speak professionally. I was driving with my husband Randall to the Berkeley Yacht Club. We passed a tall shiny high-rise tucked between the Bay Bridge and the freeway. I mentioned casually, “That building is where I did my first professional speaking gig. Up on one of the highest floors is a stunning view of the San Francisco Bay.” The event seemed like a lifetime ago and made me think about that first presentation. All the rhetoric of “you are the product” and “personal value proposition statements” and my favorite “every decision made about you and your opportunities is made in a room that you’re not in” had not been developed. They were glimmers of ideas.

What did I talk about? What did I share with a room of women looking to get some practical advice and a little inspiration along the way?

I addressed the idea of “Organizational Empathy.” I shared that when I disagree or get frustrated with someone, I pause for a second to consider: What if I walked in his shoes? Would I react to this situation differently?

My argument with that group of women, up in the high rise, long ago was the idea that we all should look at things from all perspectives. And if you’re empathetic to someone else’s view of the situation, someone else’s perception, then maybe you can find that bridge to collaboration and mutual success. Continue reading “Do you practice Organizational Empathy?”

How can you be courageous so you can be brave?

These days, I spend most of my time asking people to change. Mostly I coach them just to change the way they talk about themselves but change nonetheless.

Recently, I was meeting with a group of remarkable women, listening to how they would apply what they’d learned from my coaching. I must admit, my heart sank a little. It sank because while the room understood that they needed to evolve how they branded themselves and how others saw them, they were still afraid to push the necessary boundaries. These eager and successful women were really afraid of being their bold, authentic, unique, and compelling selves. My heart sank because I knew exactly what they were feeling: I’ve been afraid too. My heart sank because, in my eagerness to teach the idea, I had forgotten about the fear. Not acknowledging that fear was my fault. Continue reading “How can you be courageous so you can be brave?”

You Are The Product

How to present yourself in a powerful & impelling way.

There’s not a week that goes by where I don’t read some article explaining successful people’s morning routines. I’ve stopped reading them as I generally end up feeling like I’m still not doing enough. Feeling bad about yourself is not a great way to start the day. That said, my morning routine includes reading articles that have collected in my digital feed from the previous day. I’m a big fan of using Feedly to make this easy. I scan through roughly 300 articles a day. One might say it’s a bit of a problem.

However, this prolific reading is a great source of inspiration and ideas for the work I’m doing. Which brings me to this week’s newsletter and a conversation inspired by one of those articles: Andrew Medal’s 5 Investment Firms Reveal What They Look For In Startups.

You should read it yourself, but the five pieces of advice were:

  1. Fix a problem others ignore.
  2. When you pitch, focus on the big picture.
  3. Create products that have a glimpse into the future.
  4. Reach out to VCs physically near you.
  5. Have a balanced founder team.

Continue reading “You Are The Product”