Is it okay to use relationships to get ahead at work?
I’m not talking about anything illicit or even romantic. Just whether or not it’s ethical to trade on friendships, or even build friendships with the intention of using them to your advantage.
According to the research, most women would say no.
But most men would say yes.
Research from Catalyst and The Center For Work-Life Balance (via the Harvard Business Review) suggests that this difference in the way that men and women view work relationships helps explain why, despite great advances in recent decades, women still lag behind men at the top levels of the corporate world. Research shows that men in large companies are 46% more likely to have a powerful sponsor than their female peers.
And sponsorship matters. While mentorship focuses more on the mentee’s personal goals and improvement, sponsorship happens at a more public level. A sponsor is essentially someone “with clout” who actively advocates on behalf of a lower-level employee. Unlike mentorship, which can happen behind closed doors, sponsors may put their own reputation and business influence on the line in order to promote their protégé.
Having a high-level Sponsor has been shown to be a powerfully effective tool for career advancement. In fact, the studies I mentioned above suggest that it is the most important factor in determining who advances to the highest corporate levels.
So why don’t women have sponsors?
For a detailed explanation, check out this article I wrote last year for Leader to Leader. At a high level, the relationships thing is a big part of it- women tend to be very good at forming relationships with people at work, but view it as dirty or unfair to use those relationships to their advantage. Men, on the other hand, see work relationships much more strategically. They expect to use relationships to their advantage and they expect others to do the same.
To combat this and other factors, some companies are introducing more open, formalized sponsorship programs, to make sponsorship “safe,” and more accessible to women and minorities. But even if your company doesn’t have a formal program, there are some steps you can take to best position yourself to earn a sponsor the old fashioned way.
First, be intentional. Know who the leaders in your company are and know what they’re about. Next, be visible. Show them your skills. Try to work with them on a project or give a presentation they will see. Seek out ways to engage with them informally. Do they play in the company golf tournament? Try to get on their team. Do they belong to civic organizations? Consider joining. Finally, capitalize. Good leaders will always be looking for capable “rising stars” to develop. When a leader gives you a compliment or comes beside you to support you, that is the best time to proactively ask them to be intentional about their support. You can do this without being boastful or arrogant. Simply and straightforwardly make it clear that you want to build leadership skills and advance in the company. Trust me, it goes a long way.
Early in my career at Trammell Crow, I had exactly this kind of opportunity with the CEO, here’s what I said: “George, I definitely aspire to be in the C-Suite of the company. I would appreciate any feedback as to ways I might improve and I would appreciate your support when opportunities arise that you think I would be a good fit for the opportunity.” He became my mentor and my sponsor, and undoubtedly helped shape the course of my career.
Here at 4word, we’ve been working hard to develop a mentoring program specifically for women who are passionate about work, relationships and faith. A good mentor can help you set goals and balance your life in accordance with biblical principles. For more information about 4word’s mentoring program, or to apply, see our Mentor Match page.
Do you have a sponsor or a mentor or have you sponsored or mentored someone else? What has the experience offered you?
Another busy work week has come and gone, but before you start your relaxing weekend (using those mother’s day gift cards we hope) be sure to check out our favorite picks of the week. We selected a great group of articles and resources with you in mind.
Video of the Week
The Tonight Show with Jay Leno Pumpcast :: This awesome couple gets a free tank of gas and 15 minutes of fame.
A Pinterest Find
Just in time for summer, an easy DIY “No Bake Ice Cream Cake”
Emily (second from the left), with Diane (left) and the other SoCal 4word gals.
We mention 4word local groups rather frequently here on the blog. They are a huge part of Diane’s vision for 4word, and today we’re bringing you a story to demonstrate why they are so important to her. Emily Knigge is a former member of the 4word Portland chapter. Since she moved to Orange County in May 2012, she is eager to found a 4word chapter down in Southern California. Last week, we chatted with Emily to ask her how 4word Portland made such an impact on her life.
4word: How did you find the 4word Portland chapter?
Emily: I went to college with Maria Schell, one of the founding members. She sent me a Facebook message out of the blue inviting me to go to a happy hour and meet other professional women who were seeking an environment that’s open to discussing faith. It couldn’t have been better timing as far as where I was in my life. I loved the people and loved the messages at the lunch meetings, they consisted of women who were CEOs, senior executives, authors, reporters, and educators. I identified with their personal stories of career and business achievements, individual struggles, desire to balance work with personal life, and connection with God.
4word: And what was that exactly?
Emily: I’ve been very fortunate to have a fulfilling career in Investment Banking, where I advise founders, CEOs, and shareholders on mergers and acquisitions, public offerings, and growth capital raises. I’ve had struggles such as a failed engagement. I didn’t grow up in a very religious household. We went to church occasionally and on major holidays, but once I got to college I didn’t attend church or think about faith at all. After graduation, I had all these goals for things that I needed to achieve to feel fulfilled.
I was on a path I thought would make me happy, but it left me empty.
4word: How did the friends you made through 4word Portland help you through that struggle?
Emily: Many of them came from a stronger Christian background than I did. They taught me certain tools to help me grow spiritually: how to pray, how to reflect on God’s will for me and how to study Scripture and apply it to my everyday life.
Before 4word, I compartmentalized many of my relationships, I had family, work, college, and childhood friends. None of which I discussed faith with. The women I met at 4word Portland became my core group of friends with whom I could share every aspect of my life.
4word: You mentioned in an email to Diane that being part of 4word Portland transformed your thinking. Can you tell us more about that?
Emily: I’ve always had a spiritual mindset. When I was happy, I would take time to thank God for it, but it wasn’t until a major relationship of mine fell apart, that I actually reached out to Him in prayer when I was struggling. It was amazing how praying when you’re struggling can ease your mind. Giving up that power I’d tried to hold onto for so many years was very freeing.
I also realized that God is with you in the great and terrible periods of your life. Our whole life is a transition period. This is just a moment in time – whether it’s good or bad – and it too will pass. It was always easy for me to get frustrated and dissatisfied if something that I wanted to happen didn’t happen on my timing. Now, I still make plans and work to accomplish them, but I’m not trying to force things.
4word: Now that you’ve moved to Southern California, do you want to start a 4word chapter down there?
Emily: Absolutely! The moment I got down here, I wanted to get something going. It’s been a struggle, just because of geography. I’m in Orange County, we have some gals up in LA who are interested, and there is a woman down in San Diego who’s also interested. That’s a span of a four hour drive!
I think we’re going to start with conference calls and see where that goes. I think there’s definitely a group of women down here who are interested in being a part of 4word, and I’d be ecstatic to help that take off.
Are you interested in helping start a 4word chapter in your city? We’d love to hear from you! We have chapters brewing in Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, NYC, Philadelphia and DC, but if you live in a different city, you can be a catalyst for starting a chapter. Just email email@example.com to let us know you’re interested.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” – Matthew 11:28-30
When I arrived at the Co-Lab conference in Chicago a few weeks ago, I was feeling tired, inside and out. I had been traveling a lot, working hard, and logging many “extra” hours working to raise funding and develop new programs for 4word (more on that coming soon!). I had been asked to speak on the topic of reaching professional Christian women, and I knew it was a great opportunity, but honestly, what I really wanted was a reprieve.
I wanted deep sleep. I wanted a long run. I wanted a break. But what I needed was rest.
I needed the kind of rest that only God can provide. And He did provide. It came in the form of a stranger (now a friend!), a young blond woman, who approached me and gently spoke a few simple but bold words:
“Can I pray for you?”
Stephanie was a conference attendee who, like me, feels called to minister to women. She founded Legacy Living Ministries to help train the next generation to love the Lord and crave His Word. We hadn’t met before, but she sensed that I needed prayer, and she acted.
Stephanie’s prayer for me changed my heart that day and refreshed my soul. I will never forget it.
A few days after returning home, I learned that I wasn’t the only one who Stephanie impacted in that way. I received a note from a woman named Kris, who I’d met at Co-Lab. Kris wrote that she had also entered the conference on a weary note, worried about family issues, including transitioning her father to a new assisted living facility. After hearing about Kris’s family situation, Stephanie reflected a moment, then tearfully spoke Acts 17:24-27:
The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.
Kris told me she felt surprised and incredibly blessed to be ministered to in that way; especially since Stephanie is about the age of the young women Kris herself typically mentors.
Stephanie is a remarkable young woman and I feel honored to know her, but I don’t share these stories with you as a tribute to her, and I don’t think she would want me to. Too often when people hear stories like this, they think that what Stephanie did is something other people do; people who are better prepared or especially gifted. But it’s not. What Stephanie did was to open herself up to God, to lean in to Him, and to trust in His direction.
God doesn’t expect us to be perfectly prepared or prescient, He asks us to be obedient.
At Co-lab that weekend, God used Stephanie’s obedience to make a difference in the lives of those around her.
Have you ever felt compelled to pray for a stranger?
Mothers Day is almost here! Whether you already are a mom, are hoping to be a mom someday or are expecting a little one soon, we hope that you will take some time this weekend to honor the mother figure in your own life. Meanwhile, enjoy our weekly roundup of the best of this week’s best of the web.
Video of the Week
Watch musical greatness evolve through the centuries, all in one video.
A Pinterest Find
5 Mouth Watering Brown Bag Lunches via The Daily Muse.
Meet Pamela Gifford and her daughter Olivia. Up until a couple of years ago, Pamela was Vice President of Communications for the International Justice Mission (IJM). Now, she’s busy raising her two year old and consulting for IJM and other business and nonprofit ventures.
Since Sunday is Mothers Day and Pamela is a fairly new mom, we sat down with her last week to discuss her transition into motherhood and some of the struggles she went through.
4word: What made you decide to leave your job to raise your first child?
Pamela: When I married my husband Pete in May 2010, I chose to move from DC back to Chicago, where he was starting a company. IJM allowed me to continue working there, but from home – in a new role, as Vice President of Corporate and Strategic Partnerships. But it just didn’t work.
By this point, I was pregnant, and I was now sitting for hours alone in an apartment. I missed my friends; I missed anyone. I struggled to focus and work longer hours, and this struggle only intensified after the baby was born. I hired a full-time nanny and continued to try to build my new role in the organization.
But now I could see my new baby through the glass doors of my office. I don’t know of a greater distraction for a new mom in a home office! My situation was not tenable for long, and I eventually decided to leave and watch Olivia full time. It was the right thing to do for me and for IJM. Despite my best plans, the puzzle pieces didn’t fit anymore.
I contribute now as a consultant and Chicago ambassador for the organization, and I’m exploring what other ways I can contribute to nonprofit, business and civic life at this stage. I think that sometimes the greatest opportunities emerge on the detours.
4word: Was the transition from being in the workforce full-time to being at home full-time difficult?
Pamela: I found it incredibly difficult. The hardest part was losing my identity from the professional world and not knowing any identity as a “mother.” As a career woman, my time and agenda were my own.
Then, in the span of a year and a half, I got married, moved from DC and my friends, had a baby and left my job. I do not recommend this condensed timeline! There were days I would be cleaning avocado or baby food off of the floor and would think, “Oh my gosh, what happened to my life?! What am I doing down here?!” It’s not that I don’t value cleaning floors or any of a mother’s daily work – in fact, it’s the hardest work I’ve done in certain ways – it was just totally foreign to me.
4word: How did your outlook need to change?
Pamela: I needed to put a new value on my daily “output.” I needed to learn to sit on the floor and focus on my daughter struggling to stack a block, and not be thinking how I could multi-task. I had to be OK if I got the dishes cleaned and did a load of laundry in a day – that was success. I had built up strong work muscles of high output and accomplishing goals, but I had not exercised my ability to be patient, still, quiet and present. I hadn’t learned how to do small tasks well and honor their value in our family’s life. In fact, I’m still learning how to do that!
4word: Looking back, what have you learned about making the transition to motherhood? How do you advise our readers to adjust to being new moms?
Pamela: I think there are many ways women can bridge these two worlds of career woman and new mom. You just have to be honest with yourself and do what is right for you at the time. It’s also important to realize that this can change and evolve through the years – you may think you want to go back to work, and then you don’t, or vice versa.
For many years, I thought I wanted to be a stay at home mom, but now I’m considering going back to work in a year or so. I think it’s important to realize that you may not know how you’ll feel until you get into the new mom role. So be open!
I think that is why we need other women for support, ideas, inspiration, mentorship – to prop us up when we don’t have the answers or to take us out for a night of theater and a bottle of wine, like the old days. Remind yourself that despite the dramatic life changes, these “old and new” selves are all still part of you and need validating and tending.
For the new (or experienced) moms out there, what was the hardest part of being a new mom? And for those of you who are not yet mothers but hoping to be some day, what part of new motherhood scares you the most?
In honor of Mothers Day this coming weekend, Diane and the 4word team are sharing our moms with you!
Diane & Sharon. My mom lived her life with total confidence in the Lord’s providence. And that confidence freed her to live generously, and to love others without reservation. She worked tirelessly and joyfully alongside Dad, operating the family orchard and raising four kids. Watching her love so fully, I knew that’s what I wanted for myself and my family someday.
She taught me to tackle life with the same faithful confidence. My siblings and I were a bunch of scrappy farm kids growing up in the middle of nowhere Oregon. But Mom never let us see our “disadvantages.” She would say to us, “you can be president if you want to, you can do anything.”
And she didn’t just say it, she really believed it and she helped us to believe it too. As I got older, I never felt fearful that being a woman, farm kid, lower middle class, etc. might hold me back in life. Following Mom’s example, I had confidence to meet challenges and take advantage of opportunities God provided. I knew I could leave everything to study abroad, even though no one I knew had gone before me; I knew I could move across country alone for my first job (from Oregon to New Jersey!); I knew I could survive divorce, even though it hurt. Thanks to Mom, I knew I could boldly trust in God’s providence, no matter what.
Richelle & Shirley. My mom is beautiful and brilliant. She loves music and dancing and animals. She’s tough and capable and creative and always excited to learn something new. She was one of four kids, and they lived all over the country because my Grandpa was in the army and moved every few years. Mom never really said this, but I don’t think she liked all that upheaval, because once she had kids, she never moved again. Mom and dad still live in the house I grew up in, on a farm in Southern Oregon. She’s a teacher. Technically she retired a few years ago, but she’ll always be a teacher.
Growing up, mom always encouraged my brothers and me to find creative solutions to problems. Way before Tim Gunn became cool, my mom was advising us to “make it work.”
Cardboard boxes make fantastic play houses. An old night gown turns into the perfect princess dress. Want a boat to float across the pond? Build one! We sank many many “boats” before we were successful, but mom let us keep trying until we got it.
Want to learn to draw? Play the piano? Run for student counsel? Build a model train track around the top of your room? Mom’s answer was, “lets try.” And if it didn’t work the first time, there was always another way. Her willingness to let us try, and fail, at the small things helped us to develop the confidence and fortitude to tackle life’s bigger challenges.
Amanda & Ruth. My mom actually grew up on a small farm. She fed baby goats and tamed wild kittens. If you met her today you wouldn’t believe that at all. She is a business women and entrepreneur. She is really creative and loves to help people. Her love for helping people led her to the recruiting business that she has been engaged in since I was born.
My mom loves to decorate, and our house looks like something out of a shabby chic or Martha Stewart catalogue, but not the kind picturesque house where you feel like real people couldn’t actually live there. My mom has a way of making it feel warm and inviting and wonderfully cozy. She loves to throw a good party (and of course to decorate for them!). She is even known to let the decorations linger for days after the party ends just because they make her smile, especially tulle and frills.
I have many friends, but my mom is my best friend by far.
Growing up, it was just her and I (she’s a single mom). We called our house “girls camp” and she was the mom that was always up for fun. My friends and I spent many long days walking around the mall with mom, just for fun. Actually, I think of us as being a lot like the TV show, Gilmore Girls, except maybe the Southern, conservative Christian version. So, no sleeping around, but lots of fast-talking, restaurant dinners, and craft projects.
I’m so grateful to my mom for all that she taught me about independence, confidence, joy, forgiveness and most of all loving others and loving Christ.
Amy and Ceil. My mom grew up in the Southeast: in West Virginia, then Louisiana. She is a true Southern woman in all of the best ways: warm, welcoming, kind and always considerate of the needs and feelings those around her (no Scarlett O’Hara-esque diva here!). My mom does PR for Campus Crusade faculty ministry, collecting, writing and promoting stories of students and faculty whose lives have been changed by a Christian professor on their campus. My mom loves music, travel, reading and writing, all traits she has passed down to me.
I think one of the most meaningful things she did for me growing up was to introduce me to the myriad worlds found within the pages of books. I remember taking trips to the library as a little girl with my mom and younger sister when she would recommend new book series to us or help us find our old favorites again. Two of the best gifts she ever gave me growing up were the complete boxed set of the Little House on the Prairie series and the Anne of Green Gables series. The love of reading she passed down to me has opened my mind and let my imagination soar, and it has prepared me well for a career in marketing and PR.
Aside from literature, the most important thing I learned from my mom was that God is (and should be) in every part of my life, not just something I do on Sundays. She never sat down and told this to me, she simply modeled it for me every day. On mornings when I woke up earlier than usual, I would see her sitting on the front porch or in the den with her Bible and journal open. In conversations around the dinner table or when I needed advice, she would always relate scripture or a facet of her own walk with Christ to me. It didn’t stick out to me when I was younger, but now that I have “left the nest,” I can see what an impact her example had on me. When Paul says that “we are ambassadors for Christ,” that makes sense to me, because I have watched my mom live it out every day of my life.
Share your story about how your mom impacted your life in the comments below. How will you honor your mom this year? (We would love some more ideas!)
Is it just us or are the months flying by? Welcome to May! We have a great selection of our favorite finds from all over the web for you this week. Enjoy!
Video of the Week
Have you ever thought it would be smart to have “seeing eye people” to help text-happy city dwellers cross the street? This improv troupe tried it out.
A Pinterest Find
Mexican Pancakes for Cinco de Mayo.
Former professor, mother of two, consultant and church elder, Andrea Trice has worn several hats in her lifetime. She also co-authored a book on work-life balance, which is what we chose to interview her about today.
4word: Looking back over your career, was there a time when you feel you didn’t balance work and life well? Or is there a part of this that you’re really struggling with now?
Andrea: When my children were both very young and my husband was also on the tenure track at Purdue University, life was crazy. I was overwhelmed trying to do all things well and stretched far too thin. We had struggled through four years of infertility for reasons that never could be determined. Now that God had blessed us with children, I did not want to live a life that was defined primarily by stress. Thankfully, I had the freedom to redefine my career at that point to establish a better balance.
Today, as a consultant, I control my time far more. However, there is always a tension between work and my personal life. As a member of a family, my life is never just my own. We each have needs and wants that must be continually negotiated.
4word: Is this issue of work/life balance something you have difficulty trusting God with?
Andrea: Trusting God with this facet of my life has been a long process. I grew up in a church where women were permitted to serve in the nursery and make meals for others. They didn’t fill any leadership roles. I’m sure there were a few professional women in our large congregation, but I didn’t know them. As a child, I heard the message that God calls women only to work inside their homes and to help others.
Even at age 12, I remember struggling with a tension between the roles I saw women fill and how I was wired. I realized that I didn’t fit the traditional mold for women, but I didn’t know how to talk with God about it. This tension became a place of quiet sorrow for me.
4word: So what changed?
Andrea: Over the past decade, two significant things have helped change this. First, I have become a pretty serious student of God’s Word. My bedtime reading is often a commentary on a book of the Bible.. As I learn about the cultural context and literary structures used in the New Testament, I’ve come to a more freeing and I believe more accurate understanding of God’s plan for women in His Church.
Second, I have learned more about trusting God with hurts and confusion in my life. I don’t have to come to God with specific petitions about these things, just share them with Him with open hands. I have found God loves to meet me in these times of honest asking and humble listening.
As part of this process of sharing my confusion and pain with God, I spent time studying the Hebrew words used in Psalm 139 a couple of years ago. I realized in a fresh way that God had intentionally formed me the way He wanted. How I was wired was not hidden from Him. It was because of Him. I don’t need to try to hide part of myself from Him (my intellect, my leadership skills, my love of work, or my passion for the local church) or keep it locked away in shame. I could talk with Him about my passions and invite Him into my journey of discerning what He has called me to do as a Christian leader, woman, and mother.
4word: How has welcoming God into the process of balancing your family and your work obligations brought you peace?
Andrea: I don’t have all of the answers yet. What I can say is that God and I talk about these tensions regularly. There is a peace, a dependence, and even a deeper love that I now have for God because I have opened this area to Him. How He wired me is not a shameful secret that I must hide from Him. Instead, by resting in His perfect intentionality, I am slowly experiencing God’s healing and freedom.
Have you allowed God into the process of balancing your work and personal lives? If yes, how has this helped? If not… what’s stopping you?
As part of an ongoing series, NPR has been asking working women to offer advice to their “younger selves.” It’s great to look back and really think about what kinds of things I could have done differently or realized earlier.
If I could go back to when I was just starting out in my career and give myself some advice, here’s what I would say:
Make time to invest in friendships. Yes, you’ve got a lot going on. You’re newly married, you just started your first job and you’re working hard to succeed at it. And yes, it might be hard to connect with other women at church, because they don’t always “get you.” Sometimes it’s uncomfortable. Don’t give up. Keep looking until you find someone who understands the God-centered professional wife and mother that you are. Find a few women who you can share the chapters of your life with. Then you will have the deepest friendships that you have ever had in your life. You’re going to need those friends, more than you know.
Stay centered in your faith. Faith isn’t something you do in your free time. Let it permeate your life. Make this priority number one. Because no matter what you accomplish at work, no matter how handsome your husband is or how smart your kids are, we live in a broken world. Troubles will come. You’ll experience betrayal and disappointment, embarrassment and failure. Your kids will test you to the core. But faith will sustain you and guide you. Build your life on a firm foundation of faith, and you will not fall (Matthew 7:24-27).
Don’t rush yourself. I know there’s a lot you want to accomplish, but you don’t have to do everything right now. Take your time to get there. Remember that life is long, and there is a time and season for all things (Ecclesiastes 3:1). You need to put up healthy boundaries and learn to say no. You have to give yourself the time and space to go about your day in peace, even if that means missing out on some exciting events, good opportunities, or even worthwhile service projects.
Help others along the way. God has called you to work, and he gave you the skills and the drive you need to succeed. But He called you there and gifted you in those ways in order to do His work. Don’t worry: you don’t have to shout the gospel from your cubical. Simply let your faith be known in a non-aggressive way, and then live it out fully. Take special care in how you treat other people. Take the time to notice the needs of those around you, and to help where you can. As you get older, you’ll look back and have a number of accomplishments to be proud of. But what you’ll value most about your career isn’t accomplishments or titles or raises. It’s the people you’ll work with and mentor and serve whom you’ll remember most.
What advice would you give to your younger self?