Bring In The Ships
In the last month there have been some great conversations happening around the question: “How do we fix the lack of equal representation in leadership within our industries?”
Meg Duty, a friend and colleague, mentioned that we need to “bring in the ships”. It was so spot on that I’ve asked her to join me to discuss these three all important ships as we lean into this important conversation and start to bring meaningful impact.
Meg, what were the three ships that you recommended?
Meg: Mentorship, allyship, and sponsorship. I especially love the ship analogy because sailing ships make me think of forward momentum and navigation, which is exactly what these “ships” do!
These are amazing, and I want us to dive into each one of these. I also really like the order of these ships because I believe they build on one another.
- Mentorship – it’s defined as the guidance provided by a mentor, especially an experienced person in a company or educational institution. Mentorship flows throughout the GSD Factor life, but it’s especially important within the attribute of being influential, where we talk about leading by example, looking towards the future and mentoring the next generation, so they can stand on our shoulders. I think some people may think that mentorship is just telling people what to do or how to do it, but I like to think of mentorship as the seed planting. It’s that chance to share from experience, perhaps what to do and what not to do, but then, to let that mentee do whatever it is on their own. As mentors, we should just be supportive when they are ready. Leaders that are mentors understand the weight and importance of not just leading but empowering the next generation of leaders to take over from them. One misconception that I see and hear a lot with mentorship is that it’s a one-way street of learning from mentor to mentee, but I actually think it’s more of a two-way street than many realize. Iron sharpens iron. We learn from each other. We watch each other. We glean from each other’s lives.
Meg: Just like you pointed out Misha, I think true mentorship goes beyond sharing what to do and what not to do. Although dos and don’ts can be extremely helpful information, the most amount of good comes from a mentorship experience that includes sharing these experiences AND instilling confidence, encouraging self-trust, and clearing the path/creating space for individual growth. I can help plant the seed, but I can’t grow for the plant. Instead, I clear the weeds and provide the sunlight and water the plant needs to grow on its own.
Love this analogy, Meg. It’s such a great visual picture that can be remembered throughout this mentorship journey.
- Allyship – it’s defined as the active support for the rights of a minority or marginalized group without being a member of it. When I think of allyship, I also think about empathy and compassion. They all go hand in hand. Leaders that walk with authentic conviction and actively listen naturally have a tendency for empathy and compassion; however, not all leaders want to take that additional step to allyship. I think our teams and employees want and expect allyship to be part of this in our current climate. The other thing that’s important in this DEIB forward time in the corporate world is to be open to learning, looking for those opportunities to amplify voices in need. In our GSD Factor life, we talk about our voice being our strongest weapon, and using our voices is one of those immediate active supports that can be provided when pursuing allyship.
Meg: I think one of the best things I can do to be an ally is to be unapologetically, authentically myself. A huge commonality of the human experience is that we are all different (in different ways). When I am open about myself and respectfully curious about others, it makes space for others to do the same and creates opportunities for better understanding in a very organic way.
Beautifully stated Meg. There truly is a seat at the table for everyone!
- Sponsorship – it’s defined as a range of individuals or entities that support the goals and objectives of some other individual or organization. Sponsorship can manifest in a wide variety of ways, whether it’s emotional, mental, physical or resource support. I see a lot of ties and synergies between sponsorship and mentorship. Just as mentorship is a two- way street, so is sponsorship. There is encouragement and support flowing both ways. Those that sponsor are equally full from giving and feeling that they are making a difference. Sometimes the greatest gift is to give rather than to receive. Sponsorship can look as light or in depth as you can or want it to look. Just know that with sponsorship, mentorship and allyship will be close companions should you choose to embrace them.
Meg: Two-way street couldn’t describe it better! We are, and we have sponsors, allies and mentors in many ways everyday. The three “ships” are inextricably intertwined with the way we make an impact in the world. In every instance I can think of – good or challenging – where I shared my experiences, understood and amplified others, or supported another’s goal, I gained so much more than I gave away.
Meg, thank you for your insights and perspectives on this.