Ep #74: Executive Relationships Part 3: Building Your Personal Board of Directors
No, advocating for a promotion does not mean that you do not deserve it.
I see so many corporate women leaders with this mindset, and they’re playing small as a result.
They think that if they need to ask for a promotion, they must not be ready for it in the first place.
But that’s not how it works.
No one is going to tap you on the shoulder when they think you’re ready for that next level.
And if that is what you’re waiting for, you’re:
1. Not going to get promoted, and…
2. …you’re going to be frustrated when you see other people getting promoted instead.
Now, I’ve talked to countless C-Suite leaders about what it took to get to where they are now…
…and guess what?
Exactly zero of them said they got to where they are by waiting around to be plucked out.
Instead, all of them credit their success to their RELATIONSHIPS.
Their mentors, sponsors, peers, and coaches.
So on this episode of Maximize Your Career with Stacy Mayer, I dive into how to build a personal board of directors who will help you land your next promotion.
This episode is Part 3 of a 3-part podcast series I am doing entitled: Executive Relationships.
Each episode of Executive Relationships will dive into an aspect of how to build and leverage the kind of relationships that will help you advance your career, have a greater impact, and enjoy a stronger voice at the leadership table.
What You'll Learn:
- How to be purposively selected for a promotion
- How leveraging relationships will help you have a better work/life balance
- The difference between a mentor and a sponsor
- Exactly who you want on your personal board of directors
- A really practical strategy for staying in touch and top of mind with your network
Listen to the Full Episode:
Featured on the Show:
- Ep #71: Executive Relationships Part 1: The Fastest Way to Build Trust with the Leadership Team
- Ep #73: Executive Relationships Part 2: Advanced Networking Secrets
- Download my Promotion Roadmap
- Connect with me on LinkedIn
- Join the waitlist for my 6-week group coaching intensive, Executive Ahead of Time
Hello everyone. Welcome to another episode of Maximize Your Career. I'm your host, Stacy Mayer. And I am super excited, as always, to be here with you guys again this week.
As you've been listening to my podcast over the past few weeks, I've been doing a three part series on really leveraging relationships, building relationships at that higher executive level and what it means to have that executive mindset in terms of building better and stronger, more effective relationships with other people.
So we're going to be getting into part three this week about leveraging those relationships, how we build out that personal board of directors, what that means, what that looks like, and how we actually start to influence behavior at the top of our organization.
But before I get into that, I want to applaud my current round of Executive Ahead of Time students. We just closed out another session of Executive Ahead of Time.
If you're not familiar, Executive Ahead of Time is my six week group coaching intensive where I set you up to get your next promotion and to have success once you get there. This last round, we had a small group of 14 total corporate badasses. And when I say corporate badasses, that does not go lightly.
These people came to me as corporate badasses, but at the end of the six weeks, they fully realized what they were capable of and I gave them the tools to actually get into that next level of leadership.
So I want to take a moment to applaud each and every one of them. But I also wanted to share with you what they shared with me at our last session. So I always close out the time by asking them what does it mean to become the Executive Ahead of Time?
And I think it's so important for each one of you guys to actually answer that question for yourself. Really ask yourself: what would it mean for me to start acting like the Executive Ahead of Time, to truly become that corporate badass right now. Even before the promotion, even before you're actually getting the recognition that you deserve? What are the skills and the mindset? How would you have to start communicating if you truly were the Executive Ahead of Time? So I'm going to share with you what a couple of them shared with me. And we had an amazing, incredible group of 14 corporate leaders. So this is just a small segment of what they shared in our final session together. So I might share some more of these next week because it's so, so good and so empowering to really see what's possible if you commit six weeks of your life to your own professional development in truly challenging yourself to step up to the plate, to embrace your corporate badass ness and to really, truly become the Executive Ahead of Time.
So I'm going to change their names. But I do love using names so that you can really visualize the person behind the words. So Cassandra shared with us:.
Being ready ahead of time. Being ready for the next thing and not waiting to be called on. That is what it means to become the Executive Ahead of Time, being prepared and having that mindset already. They say dress like the job you want, not the job you have. So it's kind of like that, but not the clothing. But just kind of that mindset and behaviours. What you would need to take on, that persona that you would need to take on if you really felt like that senior executive leader.
So now I'm adding my own words, but really just thinking about that, who do I need to become? If I was already a COO.
Now Sharon shared with us: I realized that I am there and that I just need to convince myself and tell myself.
She is saying that she is already the executive. She just had to believe it.
So that's been fantastic. And it's just it's opened up so many doors. How I speak, how people speak differently to me, the conversations I am being included in. It's just been such an eye opener and it was all already there for me, but I was wearing blinders. So I think the blinders are gone and the opportunities now are endless.
Oh, my gosh, just reading that quote gives me goosebumps. To be able to pull off the blinders and see. That it's all right there in front of you. This is why I created Executive Ahead of Time in the first module of the program, I show you all the reasons that you are an incredible manager. And many of you listening receive a lot of credit for being an incredible manager. It's just that you haven't been given the skills and the tools to learn how to communicate like a senior executive leader. That's it. And once you start to do that, once you start to empower yourself, everything just opens up for you. Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom.
The next person, I'll call her Carrie. She said: Executive Ahead of Time means taking my career in my own hands and know that it really is up to me what I'm doing and how far I'm going to go and how happy I have been along the way that really I have more power in my hands than I have given myself credit for. And I love that term. Corporate badass. It's like trying on this new hat, this new persona, and I'm really liking it. I feel like I can make this difference in my life and in the lives of other people and bring my vision forward to the work I want to do in the world.
Seriously, people, that is amazing, I'm not making this stuff up, I have 14 more of these well, 14 total. And from all the previous Executive Ahead of Time cohorts that we've had.
We talk a lot about convincing the executives at the top that they need to have more diverse teams inside of their leadership team, but what I'm talking about is empowering the leaders themselves. Giving them the tools to actually get themselves promoted, because for the most part, your executive team wants you to succeed. They want you in those higher level leadership positions. But there are some skills that are lacking that are getting in your way. And some of that has to do with that executive level of confidence. Really trusting that you're able to make decisions at that higher level, because they're not going to promote you if you're wavering. But if you're not wavering, if you're like: 'Nope, I got this.' And this is not fake. This is actually knowing that you've got this, because I don't want you to fake it and then you get up there and you just implode. Nobody wants that. But what we want to do is really understand what it is that we "got". How we make decisions that executive level, how we communicate and how we build relationships.
So now this leads me into this episode. So I mentioned that it's part three of my three part series called Executive Relationships. And in each part of this series, I've been breaking down different aspects of building relationships at that higher executive level. What it really takes to do that.
And this is advanced level concepts. And the reason why I share that with you is because you'll see in a lot of leadership training books. When you talk about what got you here, won't get you there. And especially, especially, especially in women's leadership entry level is saying you need to build relationships. You need mentors and sponsors. I mean, usually that's chapter one of the book. And I'm saying that, yes, just go out and do it. Sure. But really understanding what it means to have mentors and sponsors, really understanding how to leverage those relationships is honestly an advanced level concept.
So in the first part of the series, I talked about creating 15-Minute Ally Meetings and at its basic structure, creating a 15-Minute Ally Meetings is simple. It's something that I teach and inside of Executive Ahead of Time. You just need to schedule it. You just need to do it. But actually maintaining it and creating a relationship with somebody over time, that's a higher level mindset. That's a higher level of thinking. That's executive level thinking.
So all of these concepts are concepts that I go into really, really deep inside of my advanced level training programs called the Promotion Accelerator. So this is once you graduate from Executive Ahead of Time, you move into the Promotion Accelerator where we really just put all of this into action and we really get to work on what it's going to take to get you promoted.
We're not just thinking about it. We're not just becoming the Executive Ahead of Time. We're putting the pedal to the metal and we're getting you into those executive level positions. And if you're already in those executive level positions, we're leveraging those so that you can truly have that voice at the table.
I get people to come into my Executive Ahead of Time program at all levels. We had a CTO in the last program. And it doesn't mean that you have an actual voice at the table if you have a title. You can still get promoted based on your subject matter expertise. But the skills I'm teaching you are that advanced level, how you actually build those relationships.
In part two of the series, I talked about networking again in and of itself, a very simple, very basic concept. But how many of you guys are actually doing it. We all know we should be networking more, but we don't know how to really leverage those relationships and use those relationships to work for us.
So if you haven't listened to those first two, go ahead and listen to this episode for sure. Keep it playing. And then after this episode, I want you to go back and listen to the first two parts of the series, because it's really going to teach you where you're headed. I think it's so important, even if you're not at that "advanced level", even if you're just kind of thinking about even pondering the fact that you want to become the Executive Ahead of Time, it's important to know where you're headed and what it really looks like to leverage relationships at a higher executive level.
So in today's episode, that's what we're talking about. We're talking about leveraging relationships.
Now, before I get into this, I really want you to understand my mindset behind this. So advocating for a promotion does not mean that you do not deserve it. I'm going to say that again. Advocating for a promotion does not mean that you do not deserve it.
So many of you are playing small and not putting yourself out there because you think that when you're ready, they'll pluck you out. But that is just not true. And the way that you're going to start finding out that's not true is actually two ways.
One is you're not going to get promoted. People around you are going to get promoted and then you're going to start to feel frustrated and you'll be like: 'What did I do wrong?' Well, what you did wrong is you didn't advocate for your promotion.
But the other reason that we know it's true is because once you start to leverage these relationships, once you actually start having regular conversations with the executive team, you're going to learn from them that that's not what they did. That they didn't just sit around and wait to be plucked out. They will all tell you that. And so that's how I know this to be true, because from my situation, I'm having conversations with people in the C-Suite all the time and asking them how they got to where they are, what it took to get there. But then also I'm working with my clients and actually pushing that needle. I'm actually challenging them to start speaking up, to start building those relationships at that higher executive level so that they can be purposefully plucked out. You want to be tapped on the shoulder. You need to own that. And they need to go out and get that. So getting tapped on the shoulder is something that you create. It's not something that just happens to you. You actually set yourself up to be tapped on the shoulder.
So the other thing that really putting yourself out there and starting to leverage is relationships do is teach you literally how to become the executive.
So think about it at those higher executive levels. Let's say you're leading a team of 200 plus leaders. Like other leaders. Maybe you have a team of 15 executives underneath you. You cannot lead that team on your own. You cannot be successful through your own willpower. And if you think that you can, that's also why you're not going for it, because who the frick wants to do that? I don't want to work 80 hour weeks. I don't want to have to be responsible and have the weight of the world on my shoulders. Even the CEO of your organization is responsible to your board of directors. And your board of directors is a board. It's not one person. So at those higher executive levels, the weight is not just on you having all the answers. So by starting to leverage these relationships at whatever position you're at right now is so important because it's teaching you how to be that executive. It's showing you what it means, and it's helping you build trust in yourself so that you will raise your hand because the other thought is like: 'Oh, my God, how am I going to handle this?'.
Because obviously, if you're listening to this, you really care about your family. You really care about having a work/life balance or at least a mix of both. You don't want to be totally ingrained in your job. You actually want to have health and well-being in your life. You don't want to be in the hospital. You don't want to die young. OK? So we're building a way for us to do both. That is essentially what we're doing. And so it starts with learning how to leverage these relationships at the higher executive level.
So when we think about mentors and sponsors, that's mostly what I'm going to be talking about in today's episode. First of all, I just want to define for you what an actual mentor is and what a mentor is not and also what a sponsor is.
So the difference between a mentor and a sponsor is a mentor is somebody that literally teaches you, gives you advice, that you're learning from. So in general, a mentor is somebody that we actually enjoy their company. We enjoy their advice. We want to listen to their advice, write the conversations. They're not droning on and on and on. It can be with somebody who is a peer or above us. Generally, it's somebody who's above us – and by above us I just mean in title or experience. Please, these people aren't 'above us'. But they're above us in the sense that they've been through it. They've learned more than us. They have a certain amount of leadership wisdom that they can give to us and impart on us.
And then a sponsor is somebody that can actually get you a job. So a sponsor is sometimes people say their bosses, their sponsor, because their boss is their biggest advocate. Their boss is the person that can actually put them up for a promotion. But I like to say that it's probably more likely your boss's boss that could be your ultimate sponsor because your boss can only work so hard for your next promotion. But if your boss's boss is on board with it, oh, my goodness, that's when things happen really, really fast. So I encourage all of you to start building those relationships if you're not already with your boss's boss. So that's part of getting a sponsor.
Now you can have both a mentor and a sponsor in the same person. So it's somebody that you meet with regularly. And there is also somebody who could put you up for a promotion. So that's very likely that that's somebody. Now, when I talk about this idea of having a person who is just a sponsor, let's say your boss's boss, but you don't have a regular mentor relationship, but you have had a pretty strong foundational conversation with your boss's boss about your next promotion opportunities. And they've given you some very specific feedback. Those types of conversations could happen once every six months or once a year. You don't have to be having regular conversations with this person, but you do when you're in their presence, you want to be showing up as an executive leader in that particular way of communicating that way that you're speaking to the group that you're speaking as if you are the executive so that you can continue to have that trust with your boss's boss.
So that's really important to just understand that distinction. Now, I'm going to go back to mentors. So one of the biggest misconceptions when we think about a mentor as someone who teaches us it's that something is wrong with us. And many of you guys are approaching your mentor conversations as if you're broken.
So I gave a whole beautiful intro into this setup for this episode that you are not broken. That you are a fantastic leader, that you are totally capable of leading at that higher executive level. You just haven't been given the tools and the mindset to be able to communicate in a way that you are already that executive. So you're not broken, you don't need help from this person to solve your problems. You're not talking about this person like: 'Oh, I just don't know what to do and I'm not sure if I'm ready.' You want to make sure you get your head in the game when you go into these conversations.
So you're showing up what I call peer to peer. So they're not your peer. They might be two or even three levels above you, but you're showing up with all that value, all those ideas, all that great strength and possibility into that conversation. And this is pure energy. This is just how you feel. And that's why I like that word peer. Because it pops you into that energy really, really quick.
So please do not turn your mentor conversations into teaching conversations, as if you're broken and they need to fix you and all of these things. Because what happens there and I've seen it over and over again is that you don't feel good about that conversation. So you're not going to want to reach out to your CEO and be very mopey in that conversation, as if you're broken, because that doesn't you're like: 'Oh, something's wrong.' And you're right. Something is wrong if you keep having conversations with your CEO in that way you're your CEO is done. He's not going to be excited to promote you because feel like: 'Well, she's kind of freaking out all the time.' So I would suggest if you can't get into this mindset, don't have those conversations. And I don't mean that that just means you give up. So that's not what I'm saying here, that we give up. What I say is you focus your energy on first. This is why I say mentors and sponsors are an advanced level concept. First, let's get our head in the game. Let's understand that we are totally capable of leading at that higher executive level. Then we schedule these mentor conversations.
So we're not just using this as another way to procrastinate and be perfect, but we're also understanding that these conversations cannot be a way to be taught because we're broken. It's the fastest way to erode trust. Is to show up in these conversations in that way. So I want to encourage you, get your head on straight, schedule the conversations, get yourself a mentor. Make sure that your sponsors know that they're your sponsor. So your boss's boss actually knows that she is responsible for getting you that next level of promotion. And there's all these subtle ways that I teach this when I teach and side of the Promotion Accelerator. But just know right now that it's important that your sponsor actually knows that they're your sponsor. This happens a lot of times.
But what I want you to start to see is that we have this personal board of directors. So now I'm going to move into the next part of what it is and who it is that we want on our advisory council. The first thing I want you to do is admit that you need a personal board of directors. Admit to yourself that this is important. And like I said, I don't care what level you're at technically. If you're at a director level or you're at an SVP level or you're already in the C suite, if you don't have a personal board of directors, you need to start building it today. So who is going to be on your personal board of directors? You're going to have mentors, multiple mentors, and they're going to be people both internally and externally. You're going to have sponsors and I say more than one sponsor. So you'll have a sponsor. Maybe it's your boss and maybe it's also your boss's boss. You could also have external sponsors, people who would really go to bat for you at other organizations as well.
And then you're just going to have your network. So what I talked about in the previous episode, you're going to have those people that you rely on every now and then, and they should serve many, many, many, many different facets. They're not necessarily people that you always get along with. They're not necessarily people who are exactly like you. So think about it. If you're building a board of directors, you're building a diverse board of directors, people who challenge you, people who do teach you, but they're teaching you a skill set so that you can be better, so that you can step into growth, not teach you because you're broken.
These are two different things. And start asking yourself if you can see the difference. I can totally see the difference, but I want you to start understanding that difference for yourself.
So you're creating this personal board of directors and then you're leveraging them. You're actually using them on a regular basis. So one way you're going to use them is, like I said, in terms of mentors. You're going to learn from them. You're going to learn and then more so than learning technical aptitude, they are going to inspire you to do more. They're going to introduce you to other people who will inspire you to do more. To be a better version of yourself. You're purposefully. Advocating for your promotion by staying in inspiration as well as now, how are you going to use your sponsors? You're going to actually be advocating for your promotion there. You're going to be having conversations and getting feedback along the way. What is it going to take for me to get to that next level? You're going to be sharing your 3xed vision with them. You're going to be talking to them from this empowered place and really taking your career into your own hands.
Another tip that I want to give you before I go today is something that I just learned this from an interview that I did. Inside of the Promotion Accelerator program, I also do stakeholder interviews for each one of the clients in that program, meaning that I interview people who are invested in their personal career. And I interviewed this woman and she said the way that she uses her network is she connects with them every now and then to help solve a problem that she's going through at work. So this is not a problem as in she's broken. But this is a problem like she's trying to solve for something in her job and she just wants to get a second opinion. She wants to get an outside point of view. And I think this is such an important way to leverage your relationships, because what it does is it empowers the other person to help you. People love helping. People love feeling needed. It also gives you an outside perspective. Even if you don't actually use their advice, it's so great to connect with somebody else to get that outside perspective. Even if they give you the same advice that the same thing that you're doing, now you're having a conversation. They're seeing you as an executive leader. They're seeing how you make decisions.
So now fast forward, imagine if this person has an opportunity, open up on their team or they have an opportunity at work where they think that you could be a really great fit even to come in as a project or a speaker or anything. There's just so many possibilities when we start to use our network in this way. We're owning that we need a personal board of directors. We're owning that we can't do it all ourselves, nor do we want to do it all ourselves. We're owning the fact that we belong in a senior executive leadership role. We're owning that once we get into that role, we are going to make such a huge difference at our organization anywhere from the actual work that we do, but the team that we build, the leadership that we bring to the organization. Because truthfully, your organization needs you in a higher level executive position. Not just you. Your organization needs you to start stepping up. So build out that personal board of directors, leverage those relationships, and you will start to see your career grow in ways that you didn't even expect. It feels so good to be tapped on the shoulder to be called in for projects when you didn't even "feel like you had to do anything."
So the work that we're doing now, the action that we're doing now is setting ourselves up to be tapped on the shoulder in the future.
Thank you so much for listening. And I can't wait to see you again next week.
About Your Host
Hi! I'm Stacy Mayer, a Certified Executive Coach and Promotion Strategist on a mission to bring more diversity to the leadership table by getting 1000 underrepresented corporate managers promoted into senior executive positions each year worldwide.
I help undervalued executives scale to the C-Suite using repositioning strategies that build your confidence and visibility, so you can earn the recognition and support you need from key stakeholders while embodying your unique leadership style.
My podcast “Women Changing Leadership with Stacy Mayer” tackles topics like executive communication, getting more respect in the workplace from challenging bosses and team members, and avoiding the common mistakes that sabotage career advancement.