You Never Know

Speaking with a former client the other day, I was so inspired by her story that I asked her permission to share it.

Can you imagine, successfully changing careers twice because you did your job? Michelle was working in retail when she made some calls for a customer who was looking for a specific product. The next day, his human resources executive called Michelle at work. Apparently, her customer was the CEO of a real-estate developer and wanted Michelle to interview for a role selling townhomes in his new development. He was impressed by her and her level of customer service. She got the job.

While in her new role selling real-estate, Michelle sold a townhome to a woman who required an extreme amount of patience. This woman went to contract three different times on three different townhomes before finally closing on the third townhome. She then asked Michelle if she would be interested in working for her insurance company, where she was the Chief People Officer. She was impressed by Michelle’s patience and calm demeanor, as she changed her mind time and time again.

Fast forward, while in her new role as an insurance broker (yes, she got that job too), Michelle found a sponsor in the insurance industry who has been instrumental in Michelle’s career. Three companies and many promotions later, Michelle is a now a high ranking executive at a major insurance company.

When I asked Michelle about her key to success, she said it was her ability to “get to know the person, focus on what matters to them and be real”. IMHO, being fully present in every interaction matters, as does truly connecting with others. You never know!


This is one of my all time favorite quotes.

People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

Maya Angelou

Worth The Share

Do you have a sponsor or two? We often talk about mentors, and many of us have business or executive coaches, but do you have a sponsor? It continually surprises me that most of my clients are unfamiliar with the concept of having a sponsor.

While a mentor shares experiences, offers moral support, listens and might share advice, a sponsor is an advocate, someone who intentionally brings up your name when you are not in the room. Someone who says, “what about Michelle” for a stretch assignment or when talking about a bigger job or promotion is a sponsor.

In this article, What Great Sponsors Do Differently, the authors talk about the relationship from the perspective of the sponsor and share six tips which I have included below. What strikes me about this list is that it is the ideal scenario. In a fast paced business world, the most important role of the sponsor is that the sponsor acts on behalf of the sponsee (#3) by promoting them to other high level executives. Sometimes we have sponsors, and are not even aware that they are advocating for us and our work.

If you are a sponsor, and have a formal structure to your sponsor/sponsee relationship, here are some tips to maximize it. Great sponsors:

  1. Show up – they attend regularly scheduled meeting and respect the time of their sponsee.
  2. Are patient and without judgement – and invest in really understanding their sponsee.
  3. Act outside the one-on-one meetings with their sponsees – and advocate for their professional growth with assignments and promotions.
  4. Seek out relevant information transparently – to better know and understand their sponsee.
    Offer feedback and provide psychological safety – and are candid while providing a welcoming space to talk, listen and learn.
  5. Talk to each other about sponsorship – and the impact sponsoring has on the organization as a whole.

Check out What Great Sponsors Do Differently to learn more.

And Finally...

As we think about unexpected opportunities like what Michelle experienced twice in her career, or sponsors who actively advocate for us, I have to ask: How are you paying it forward? Who are you mentoring or sponsoring?

A few months ago, a dear friend sent me a book that resonated with me. Give and Take, by Adam Grant, sheds light on the powerful

impact of helping others. He talks about Givers, Matchers and Takers. One of my favorite quotes from the book: “It’s the givers, by virtue of their interest in getting to know us, who ask us the questions that enable us to experience the joy of learning from ourselves”. Check out Give and Take for some true inspiration.

Not surprisingly, Michelle currently makes time to pay it forward by sponsoring colleagues, mentoring a new manager and leading an internal coaching circle of eight women from around the country.

Are you sponsoring, mentoring or coaching others at your company or in your professional sphere? If not, no matter what stage you are at in your career, now is the perfect time to start!

Have a great week.
Mary Jo

To learn more about my 1:1 executive, communication or business growth coaching, custom virtual workshops, the Career Transition program or just to connect, you can reach me at [email protected]