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How to find the person who can help you get ahead at work

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    It was the spring of 1988
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    when I had the aha moment.
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    I was at my first roundtable,
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    and for those of you who don't know,
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    the roundtable was a very
    commonly used phrase on Wall Street
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    to describe the year-end
    evaluative process
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    for analysts, associates, vice presidents,
    all the way up to managing directors.
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    That was the process where they
    were discussed behind closed doors
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    around a table, i.e. the round table,
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    and everyone was put into a category --
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    the top bucket, the middle bucket,
    the lower bucket --
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    and then that was translated
    into a bonus range
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    that would be assigned
    to each professional.
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    This was my first time there,
    and as I observed,
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    I saw that there was one person
    that was responsible
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    for recording the outcome
    of a conversation.
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    There were other people in the room
    that had the responsibility
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    of presenting the cases
    of all the candidates.
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    And there were other invited guests
    who were supposed to comment
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    as a candidate's position was presented.
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    It was interesting to me
    that those other people
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    were folks who were more senior
    than the folks that were being discussed
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    and they theoretically had had
    some interaction with those candidates.
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    Now, I was really excited to be
    at this roundtable for the first time,
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    because I knew that my own process
    would go through this same way,
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    and that my bonus would be
    decided in the same way,
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    so I wanted to know how it worked,
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    but more importantly,
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    I wanted to understand
    how this concept of a meritocracy
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    that every company that I talked to
    walking out of business school
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    was selling.
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    Every time I talked to a company,
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    they would say, "Our culture,
    our process, is a meritocracy.
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    The way you get ahead in this organization
    is that you're smart,
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    you put your head down
    and you work really hard,
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    and you'll go right to the top.
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    So here was my opportunity to see
    exactly how that worked.
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    So as the process began,
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    I heard the recorder
    call the first person's name.
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    "Joe Smith."
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    The person responsible
    for presenting Joe's case did just that.
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    Three quarters of the way through,
    someone interrupted and said,
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    "This is a great candidate, outstanding,
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    has great analytical
    and quantitative skills.
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    This is a superstar."
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    The recorder then said,
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    "Sounds like Joe
    should go in the top bucket."
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    Second person, Mary Smith.
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    Halfway through that presentation,
    someone said, "Solid candidate.
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    Nothing really special,
    but a good pair of hands."
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    The recorder said,
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    "Sounds like Mary
    should go in the middle bucket."
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    And then someone said, "Arnold Smith."
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    Before the person
    could present Arnold's case,
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    somebody said, "Disaster. Disaster.
    This kid doesn't have a clue.
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    Can't do a model."
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    And before the case was presented,
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    the recorder said,
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    "Sounds like Arnold
    should go in the bottom bucket."
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    It was at that moment
    that I clutched my pearls --
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    (Laughter)
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    and said, "Who is going to speak for me?"
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    Who is going to speak for me?
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    It was that moment that I realized
    that this idea of a meritocracy
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    that every organizations sells
    is really just a myth.
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    You cannot have a 100 percent
    meritocratic environment
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    when there is a human element
    involved in the evaluative equation,
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    because by definition,
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    that makes it subjective.
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    I knew at that moment that somebody
    would have to be behind closed doors
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    arguing on my behalf,
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    presenting content in such a way
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    that other decision makers
    around that table
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    would answer in my best favor.
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    That was a really interesting lesson,
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    and then I said to myself,
    "Well, who is that person?
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    What do you call this person?"
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    And as I thought about
    the popular business terms at the time,
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    I said, wow, this person
    can't be a mentor,
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    because a mentor's job
    is to give you tailored advice,
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    tailored specifically to you
    and to your career aspirations.
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    They're the ones who give you
    the good, the bad and the ugly
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    in a no-holds-barred way.
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    OK. Person can't be
    a champion or an advocate,
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    because you don't necessarily
    have to spend any currency
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    to be someone's champion.
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    You don't necessarily
    get invited to the room
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    behind closed doors if you're an advocate.
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    It was almost two years later
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    when I realized what
    this person should be called.
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    I was speaking
    at the University of Michigan
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    to the MBA candidates,
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    talking about the lessons
    that I had learned
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    after my three short years on Wall Street,
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    and then it came to me.
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    I said, "Oh, this person
    that is carrying your interest,
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    or as I like to say,
    carrying your paper into the room,
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    this person who is spending
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    their valuable political
    and social capital on you,
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    this person who is going
    to pound the table on your behalf,
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    this is a sponsor.
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    This is a sponsor."
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    And then I said to myself,
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    "Well, how do you get a sponsor?
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    And frankly, why do you need one?"
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    Well, you need a sponsor, frankly,
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    because as you can see,
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    there's not one evaluative process
    that I can think of,
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    whether it's in academia,
    health care, financial services,
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    not one that does not have
    a human element.
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    So that means it has
    that measure of subjectivity.
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    There is a measure of subjectivity
    in who is presenting your case.
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    There is a measure of subjectivity
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    in what they say
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    and how they interpret
    any objective data that you might have.
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    There is a measure of subjectivity
    in how they say what they're going to say
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    to influence the outcome.
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    So therefore, you need to make sure
    that that person who is speaking,
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    that sponsor,
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    has your best interests at heart
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    and has the power to get it,
    whatever it is for you,
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    to get it done behind closed doors.
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    Now, I'm asked all the time,
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    "How do you get one?"
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    Well, frankly, nirvana is when
    someone sees you in an environment
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    and decides, "I'm going
    to make it happen for you.
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    I'm going to make sure
    that you are successful."
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    But for many of us in this room,
    we know it doesn't really happen that way.
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    So let me introduce
    this concept of currency
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    and talk to you about how it impacts
    your ability to get a sponsor.
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    There are two types of currency
    in any environment:
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    performance currency
    and relationship currency.
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    And performance currency
    is the currency that is generated
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    by your delivering that
    which was asked of you
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    and a little bit extra.
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    Every time you deliver upon an assignment
    above people's expectations,
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    you generate performance currency.
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    It works exactly like the stock market.
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    Any time a company says to the street
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    that they will deliver 25 cents a share
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    and that company delivers
    40 cents a share,
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    that stock goes up, and so will yours.
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    Performance currency
    is valuable for three reasons.
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    Number one, it will get you noticed.
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    It will create a reputation for you.
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    Number two, it will also
    get you paid and promoted
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    very early on in your career
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    and very early on in any environment.
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    And number three,
    it may attract a sponsor.
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    Why? Because strong performance currency
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    raises your level of visibility
    in the environment, as I said earlier,
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    such that a sponsor
    may be attracted to you.
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    Why? Because everybody loves a star.
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    But if you find yourself in a situation
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    where you don't have a sponsor,
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    here's the good news.
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    Remember that you can exercise
    your power and ask for one.
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    But here's where the other currency
    is now most important.
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    That is the relationship currency,
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    and relationship currency
    is the currency that is generated
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    by the investments that you make
    in the people in your environment,
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    the investments that you make
    in the people in your environment.
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    You cannot ask someone
    to use their hard-earned
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    personal influential
    currency on your behalf
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    if you've never had
    any interaction with them.
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    It is not going to happen.
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    So it is important that you invest
    the time to connect, to engage
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    and to get to know the people
    that are in your environment,
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    and more importantly to give them
    the opportunity to know you.
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    Because once they know you,
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    there's a higher probability
    that when you approach them
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    to ask them to be your sponsor,
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    they will in fact answer
    in the affirmative.
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    Now, if you're with me and you agree
    that you have to have a sponsor,
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    let's talk about how
    you identify a sponsor.
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    Well, if you're looking for a sponsor,
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    they need to have
    three primary characteristics.
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    Number one, they need to have
    a seat at the decision-making table,
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    they need to have exposure to your work
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    in order to have credibility
    behind closed doors,
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    and they need to have some juice,
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    or let me say it differently,
    they'd better have some power.
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    It's really important
    that they have those three things.
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    And then once you have
    identified the person,
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    how do you ask for one?
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    The script goes like this.
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    "Jim, I'm really interested
    in getting promoted this year.
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    I've had an amazing year
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    and I cannot show this organization
    anything else to prove my worthiness
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    or my readiness for this promotion,
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    but I am aware that somebody
    has to be behind closed doors
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    arguing on my behalf
    and pounding the table.
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    You know me, you know my work
    and you are aware of the client feedback,
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    and I hope that you will feel comfortable
    arguing on my behalf."
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    If Jim knows you
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    and you have any kind of a relationship,
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    there's a very high probability
    that he will answer yes,
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    and if he says yes,
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    he will endeavor to get it done for you.
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    But there's also a shot
    that Jim might say no,
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    and if he says no, in my opinion,
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    there's only three reasons
    that he would tell you no.
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    The first is he doesn't think
    that he has enough exposure to your work
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    to have real credibility
    behind closed doors
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    to be impactful and effective
    on your behalf.
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    The second reason he may tell you no
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    is that you think
    he has the juice to get it done,
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    but he knows that he does not
    have the power to do it
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    and he is not going to admit that
    in that conversation with you.
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    (Laughter)
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    And the third reason
    that he would tell you no,
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    he doesn't like you.
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    He doesn't like you.
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    (Laughter)
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    And that's something that could happen.
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    But even that will be
    valuable information for you
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    that will help to inform
    your next conversation with a sponsor
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    that might make it
    a little bit more impactful.
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    I cannot tell you how important
    it is to have a sponsor.
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    It is the critical relationship
    in your career.
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    A mentor, frankly, is a nice to have,
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    but you can survive a long time
    in your career without a mentor,
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    but you are not going to ascend
    in any organization without a sponsor.
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    It is so critical that you
    should ask yourself regularly,
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    "Who's carrying my paper into the room?
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    Who is carrying my paper into the room?"
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    And if you can't answer
    who is carrying your paper into the room,
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    then I will tell you to divert
    some of your hardworking energies
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    into investing in a sponsor relationship,
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    because it will be critical
    to your success.
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    And as I close, let me give a word
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    to the would-be sponsors
    that are in the room.
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    If you have been invited into the room,
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    know that you have a seat at that table,
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    and if you have a seat at the table,
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    you have a responsibility to speak.
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    Don't waste your power worrying
    about what people are going to say
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    and whether or not they think
    you might be supporting someone
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    just because they look like you.
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    If somebody is worthy of your currency,
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    spend it.
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    One thing I have learned
    after several decades on Wall Street
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    is the way to grow your power
    is to give it away,
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    and your voice is at the heart.
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    (Applause)
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    And your voice
    is at the heart of your power.
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    Use it.
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    Thank you very much.
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    (Applause)
Títol:
How to find the person who can help you get ahead at work
Speaker:
Carla Harris
Descripció:

The workplace is often presented as a meritocracy, where you can succeed by putting your head down and working hard. Wall Street veteran Carla Harris learned early in her career that this a myth. The key to actually getting ahead? Get a sponsor: a person who will speak on your behalf in the top-level, closed-door meetings you're not invited to (yet). Learn how to identify and develop a productive sponsor relationship in this candid, powerful talk.

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Video Language:
English
Team:
TED
Projecte:
TEDTalks
Duration:
13:23

English subtitles

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