Hello, corporate badasses. Welcome to another episode of Maximize Your Career. I'm your host, Stacy Mayer, and super excited as always to be here with you again this week. In today's episode, I am telling you about a practice that has been preached over and over again in women's leadership. And I want you to literally scratch this word from your vocabulary as if you never heard it before and you never want to hear it again. And that word is mentor. That we need mentors to get ahead in our career.
I'm going to give you a little bit of back story. But before I get into that, I want to celebrate a win for one of the corporate badasses who's in my Leadership Table, which is my Advanced Group Training program. After you learn the fundamentals of Executive Ahead Of Time and then you advance into more guided coaching with me. And inside this program, I actually coached a corporate badass to land her first Vice President position. It's at a new company and she's been with this company now for a couple of months. And when she interviewed for the role, she actually interviewed with the CEO of the organization. This was because it was a smaller organization, but I really encourage many of you and the corporate badasses that I work with to have regular conversations with their CEO, even in larger organizations, depending on what you consider to be large. If you have access to your CEO, I highly recommend you having regular 15-Minute Ally Meetings with your CEO. So in this particular case, because I've coached her on this, she has reached out to her CEO and she had an initial conversation when she was first hired, just about checking in and catching up. She admitted to me that she's very intimidated by these conversations and rightfully so. If you're going to meet with the CEO of your organization, it's going to cause a little bit of anxiety just because of the nature of the hierarchy of having somebody in a position of influence. And then now you're meeting with that person who literally can make or break your time at your organization. So it makes sense that you're a little bit intimidated by this person. And then the other thing is, is that this particular CEO that she was meeting with, she feels that he's very intelligent. He is a serial entrepreneur. He has started several and founded several of his own companies. And he also just has a lot of opinions about things. And she just wanted to be fully prepared when she came into this conversation.
So I'm going to pause right there. And you can see, because of the intimidation factor alone, that's enough reason to force yourself to get in front of this person. I firmly believe that if there's anything that you're afraid of doing at work, anybody, especially a person that you're afraid of having a conversation with at work, you need to stop right now, get on their calendar. Get coaching from me on how to do that conversation and then just do it. We have to rip the Band-Aids off. We can't be living in fear at our own job every single day that we go into work. And you may think it doesn't matter because in her case, she doesn't actually speak to her CEO on a regular basis. But it does. It's always in the back of your head and you don't want to be intimidated by these people. So we break down the walls and we get ourselves in front of them so that we can feel like the corporate badass that we really, really are. And this was huge because I'm going to tell you the happy ending from this conversation. So now she's ready to have her next 15-Minute Ally Meeting with him and she had no trouble getting on his calendar. He, of course, said yes to it. And because she was intimidated and a little bit worried, she wanted to over prepare for the conversation, which is natural. We want to do a quote unquote good job. So she had a meeting with her boss to get his advice on how she should prepare for this conversation. He gave her a couple of tips about how to meet her CEO as a peer and not as a Vice President who works for him and has to prove herself to him. And so all of that was really, really great advice. But then he proceeded to tell her that she needed to make sure she had all of her numbers in order; that she was very clear on what her team was working on. And he gave her a lot of different tactical "in the weeds" advice. And that she comes prepared with all of that information because she doesn't want to be caught off guard. While I think that is all incredibly important and she was going to do that anyway because that is actually part of her job and she needs to be prepared in that way. This is not what we're leading the conversation with. And I think that is so, so important because when you're heading into these conversations, if you're thinking you're already a little bit intimidated, you already admire the person because you think that they're very intelligent and they might ask you a question and you feel like you're caught off guard. Then you get advice that you better have your shit together before you have a conversation with him. Now it's like a triple whammy and you're really setting yourself up to fail. Luckily we had a coaching conversation and I shared with her, that's great, have your numbers, but just forget about them. Like literally have them in your back pocket. And honestly, what I would suggest for any of you if somebody starts to turn your 15-Minute Ally Conversation into a work conversation. I would say I know our time is limited right now. Let's follow up on that. And I'm happy to give you all the information and the numbers and what I'm working on. But I think that's a different conversation. For today I'd love to know more about XYZ.
Even if that's your CEO and you're a Vice President, you can lead the conversation in that way. Remember, you're the one who scheduled the conversation. Your CEO didn't schedule the conversation to hear the numbers. There's a difference between the two. If your CEO schedules a conversation with you because he wants you to report out on what you're working on, that's different than you scheduling a 15-Minute Ally Conversation with your CEO and then turning it into a work meeting. Bad idea. So I coached her on this conversation, what questions she was going to ask her CEO instead, how she was going to show up powerfully to this conversation. Not because she had the numbers in her back pocket, but because she's a corporate badass and she deserves to be in the room with her CEO and she can definitely hold her own with her CEO. So that's what she did. I received an email from her, which I'm just going to read to you verbatim. It says:
My meeting with the CEO went very well today. He put another 45 minutes on my calendar for Friday because he said the conversation was very insightful/valuable.
Now I talk a lot on this podcast about creating your 3xed vision. This could literally be your 3xed vision. That your CEO puts regular time in your calendar because he says that your conversations are very insightful and valuable. He is not going to say that your conversations are very insightful and valuable if you're just checking in with him about the numbers of your team and the projections and your forecasts for the rest of the year. That is not an insightful and valuable conversation. That's just a one and done that could be done over email. You see where I'm going here? This is huge! This is absolutely huge. And that's going to lead me in to the conversation I'm having today with you about why we should never have mentors anymore. No more mentors please. No more mentors at all. You can strike that word from your vocabulary. Done. Over. You're never creating a mentor again. You're creating allies instead.
Now, I'm going to take a step back because I want to share with you why I think it's so important that the conversation around mentors, especially for women in leadership was created. And I think, quite frankly, it's been around since the beginning of time. When you talk to successful business people, they'll talk about their mentors that they had and the people that helped them grow their career. And all of that is incredibly valuable. So I'm going to share with you that and then we can transition that into what is actually going to help you advance in your career, advance in your confidence. Create relationships like having somebody say on a regular basis that your conversations with them were very insightful and valuable. Those are the types of conversations that we're wanting to have. Our goal is not to have an amazing mentor.
When you look back on your career, let's say you don't advance past director level. And you don't feel like you're making a real contribution to your organization. You don't feel like your opinion matters. You're always in the weeds, but you have an amazing mentor. Are you going to be happy with your career? No, of course not. That sounds like a terrible career path. Yet so many of you are settling for that. And if that's you, it's okay. That's what I'm here for. That's why you listen to my podcast. I tell it to you like it is.
So back in the day and I'm just going to start with Sheryl Sandberg and Lean In and what she was noticing when she wrote that book is that a lot of women didn't have mentors and sponsors. And in the traditional business world, quote unquote, white male business world, it was very important for people to have a specific mentor that kind of guided their career path. And I'm assuming it works. It did work. You've heard it work. But the problem is that traditional mentorship implies that you look, act, think, talk like the rest of the room. And so the reason that traditional mentorship works so well in a traditional business sense is because your mentor is somebody who looks, thinks, acts, talks exactly like you. They hold a position of influence in power. You're rising up in your career and they can open doors for you. Great. Done. Awesome. Have a sponsor. A sponsor is somebody who literally opens the door for you. Get that person on board. But here's the problem when you don't look, think, act, talk like the rest of the room. The problem is that your challenges are not the same as that mentor. And you can have a mentor who looks, acts, thinks, talks exactly like you, which is great. And a lot of women do.
People of color will have a woman of color who has risen through the ranks and has created her own career path. And she is mentoring you. That's fantastic. But the problem with that is that her doors don't open in the same way that your doors will open. Because when we don't look, think, act, talk like the rest of the room, our doors open differently. It's just a fact. You know this is true because you've butted up against it before. It is a terrible thing that happens in the corporate world. It's why so many women drop out of the corporate world. It's why so many women stop going for higher level executive positions because the doors don't open up in the same way for them as it did for their white male counterparts who basically had to be good at their job and get an excellent mentor that would open doors for them. That's the rule of getting promoted. And I'm just saying that's true. For you and this is what my work has been based on is how do doors open for you specifically? Time and time again, I have seen that in order for you to not only get promoted, to actually have that door open for you, but also to have that real voice at the table, you need to have an entire room full of people on your side. Not the one mentor that's going to open the one magical door for you, but a room and army of people that are there uplifting you and supporting you. Now, as a high achiever, as somebody who has had to work their butt off their entire career and probably finds herself in the weeds right now as it is. The idea of now I have this added responsibility of getting an entire room of people to be my ally. It can feel completely impossible. It feels like this huge task. It feels like a whole other job. Why do I have to do that? Why can't I just do my job, be good at my job, and expect a promotion to come? It's not going to happen. Sometimes it will happen and you'll get promoted. You might get a board seat, you might get a promotion, you might have an executive level role, but you don't have the support of the CEO and the rest of the executive team. And now you're the only woman of color on an entire group of white male leaders that are looking at you to prove yourself twice as hard. To prove yourself because you don't look, think, act, talk like the rest of the room. You see where I'm going here. And this sucks. It sucks, but I have the solution.
The first part of the solution is to scratch the word mentor from your vocabulary. Stop trying to find a mentor. Stop trying to find that one person who is going to save your career. Because at the end of the day we don't need saving. We're corporate badasses. We don't need that one person to open the door for us. What we need is to shift the entire Leadership Table so that we are a part of them. We belong at that Leadership Table. That's how we have a voice at the executive suite. That's how we actually claim our voice at the table. So what we're going to do instead is to create 15-Minute Ally Meetings. And that's the process that I walked my client through when she was having this conversation with her CEO. 15 minutes. Traditionally a mentor conversation is an hour long. It happens once a quarter. You have to do a ton of preparation for them. Then you have follow up homework. You have to listen to what your mentor said. You have to do what your mentor said. Again. You don't need advice. You don't need more traditional saving. You don't need somebody necessarily to open that door for you. You need to create allies across your organization so that when it comes time for your promotion, of course, we're going to promote you. Of course. Nobody thinks twice about it. Nobody thinks, oh, we're just promoting her because she's a person of color. No. We're promoting her because she's the corporate badass and we need her in the room because I value her insight. And you can create those relationships. So you scratch the word mentor from your vocabulary. You realize that you're not going to perpetuate the same problem that you're trying to break against, which is having one solo person in charge of your entire career. And you're going to create allies all across your organization. You're going to do 15-Minute Ally Meetings with various different leaders at your company. Everybody who is above you essentially is going to know your name, what you stand for, and better yet, you're going to know their name and what they stand for. You're not going to be intimidated by them. When you're in a management team meeting, even if it's on Zoom, you know everybody in the room. You're going to have people calling on you in the conversation. Bringing you into the conversation. Providing opportunities for you because you are a corporate badass and your insight is valuable. We need you in this conversation. That's what we're doing with 15-Minute Ally Meetings. You cannot go into these 15-Minute Ally Meetings trying to prove yourself and making sure that you're just spouting off your resume to all these different people because that's not building trust that you can lead at the executive level. When you start to have these 15-Minute Ally Meetings, people take notice. They're like, wow, no one has asked me this question. Nobody has ever came into a conversation with me like this before. And you know what? Great! That is fantastic! Because here's the thing. You are doing things different. You're pushing the envelope. That is how we're going to truly bring more diversity to The Leadership Table. That's how we're going to be included in the conversation. Not because we had a single mentor that opened one door for us. We're putting ourselves in the room where it happens. We're paving our own path. And the other thing is, is that this conversation is recreatable. You're not just relying on the kindness of strangers. You're going out and you're making it happen for yourself. Now, I talked a little bit about how in the world do we have the time for this and oh, my God, this is so daunting. And that's the beauty of 15 minutes. We're keeping these conversations literally to recreate that bumping into someone in the hallway. Or over Zoom. You can have a 15 minute conversation with somebody in between meetings. And you need to carve out this time because it's going to show you where you're too far into the weeds, where you're putting your energy into the wrong places.
Inside of The Leadership Table I also do Stakeholder Interviews where I interview the person's boss or boss's boss and I find out information about how they see that person. And one of the women inside of The Leadership Table, I was interviewing her boss and actually at this point it was her former boss because she had moved into a different group and got a significant promotion. And he actually shared with me that he admired her because of those relationships that she had built. It wasn't unbeknownst to him that she was having conversations with lots of different people at the organization. He said I could learn from her. And he knew that this opportunity that had opened up for her in this other department was because of the way she was showing up differently at work. And he was jealous. He was like, wow, I've never even thought to do this. I never thought to build relationships with so many different people. But I can see how important that is and how valuable that is for not just her career, but her ability to succeed at that new role. And he admired that. Here's the other piece about having 15-Minute Ally Meetings is the one thing that really stops us as women from raising our hand, from asking for more is because we don't want to seem cutthroat. We don't want to seem like we're just out for the promotion, that we're just out for ourselves. And when we have that single mentor that's going to open that door for us, that is essentially what we're doing. We're saying, okay, I'm going to put all my eggs in this basket and I'm going to have that person magically open a door for me versus I'm going to put in the work and I'm going to create allies all across my organization. Then it's not about oh, she's just in it for herself. No, she's a corporate badass and she knows how to build relationships because at the executive level you are the top. You are the decision maker, and you have to have those relationships. The reason you don't have that voice at the table if you get promoted to the C-suite without allies is because you're still operating on an island. You're stressed out. You tried to create a path that doesn't work for you. That's not the same for you because you don't look at, think, talk, like the rest of the room.
So today's podcast episode is a little bit of a soap box, but it's very, very important to me that you begin to strike the word mentor from your vocabulary and that you start to build 15-Minute Allies instead. Because that not only is how you're personally going to get promoted to the executive suite and how you're going to make more money and how you're going to be valued for your insight versus just the hours that you put in at work. But it's literally how we're going to change the face of The Leadership Table. It is actually how we're going to bring more diversity to the executive suite on a regular basis. So I implore you, do this for yourself. You're going to have more confidence and you're going to be much more effective all along the way. And do it for all of the women that are going to come behind you, all of the corporate badasses who want to be allies with you. And you're going to tell them, look, I'm happy to be your ally. And I want to encourage you to go out and find five, six, seven more allies just like me. Give them that homework assignment. Don't just tell them that they need to raise their hand more and speak up more. Show them how to build allies all across their organizations. Show them how to create their own 15-Minute Ally army. Because that's what we're going to need to be successful at the executive suite. And now you have the single most important tool to help you get there. All right, my friends, have a fantastic week, and I'll talk to you soon. Bye.