Last weekend I facilitated a workshop at the SheBelieves Summit in New York, which brought together 200+ college-aged students to hear from women in leadership about their journey to achieve their dreams. SheBelieves is a movement begun by the the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team to inspire girls and young women to accomplish their goals, athletic and otherwise. As a SheBelieves Champion for the past year, I’m inspired by the USWNT team and blown away by the momentum they are creating for girls and women on and off the field.
Speakers at the summit included sports trailblazers like USWNT player, Crystal Dunn known as USA’s first-choice at left back and Katie Sowers, the Offensive Assistant Coach for the San Francisco 49ers, the second woman in history to hold a full-time NFL coaching position as well as business leaders like STEM role model Safra Katz, CEO of Oracle, and Jennifer Fisher, Chief Well-being Officer at Deloitte, who is a pioneer in transforming corporate culture. Not surprisingly, almost all the Summit panel discussions and workshops touched on the importance of relationships and community.
We all rise higher when we lift each other up as we climb.
Relationships, relationships, relationships. They are everything. Discovering, developing, and maintaining relationships have been core to the best moments in my life and that’s because of the time and energy I have invested in them. I encourage you to make this your year to grow your relationships so you can experience the personal and professional benefits of watching them bloom.
Sometimes all we need is a boost of energy and positive reinforcement to help us get through life’s challenges. It is so important to have people we respect remind us of our strengths and give us air cover in times of need. At all times, we need people who will offer their experience, power, and influence to have our backs and give us a leg up in reaching our career milestones.
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Some of the disappointing statistics I pointed out during my SheBelieves relationship-building workshop spoke to the lack of established networks and the challenges women face in cultivating professional connections:
89% of women don’t have a sponsor to help them advance in their careers
68% of women don’t have a mentor
61% of women say they lack role models
In so many ways, women are still learning how to navigate through a male-created and male-dominated world of business.
But I believe women have a unique advantage when it comes to relationship-building because of our strengths in creating community across all areas of our lives. Contrary to the catty #girlfight memes on the internet, the women I have met in my career have almost all been willing to help me out when I took the bold step of asking for it.
Today, I am asking you to muster the courage to take a bold step toward tapping into your professional network. Remember, who you know gives you power. But it is how well they know you that will open doors.
Four Steps To Cultivate Your Community
- Who is your community? Think about all of the communities you belong to (i.e. women’s network, professional club or association, community initiative, your child’s parent association) and what motivates you to invest time in them.
- How strong is your community? Reflect on the people in these communities and the strength of your relationships. Where do these relationships fall in your priorities? What challenges have you faced in developing new relationships in these communities or even maintaining them?
- How can you support them professionally? How well do these individuals know you and are they aware of your professional goals? How familiar are you with their dreams and goals? Do any of the people in your community have insights, connections or experience with your goals? This is typically the step where the light bulb turns on and we realize we have not made time to leverage people in our network who could help us.
- How can you strengthen your key relationships? Map out your next steps for reaching out to the people in your community that rose to the top of your mind in this process. It could be checking in via email, sending a text to grab coffee or picking up the phone to ask them how they are progressing towards a goal of importance to them. Do something. Make the first move then be vulnerable about the big dream you are working towards.
This exercise allows you to take stock of the universe of relationships you have already built so you can determine and identify the gaps in your network you can fill to help you reach a specific professional goal. It also unveils the quality of relationships you have with key individuals so you work on strengthening them.
Pay attention to your communities and try to harness the energy of helping them rise and thrive alongside with you. It helps you determine where and how you are spending your time in relation to the goals you have in the short and long terms. Now that you’ve identified the key relationships you need to nurture, stay tuned for my next article on how to maintain them.
This post is inspired by research featured in my forthcoming book Dig Your Heels In: Navigate Corporate BS and Build The Company You Deserve, launching in April 2019!