This is part two of my book review of Grace Killelea’s “The Confidence Effect.” If yo haven’t read part one, definitely take some time to read through it. Where we left off was discussing Killelea’s 4Rs of Success. This second installment will discuss her take on understanding and mastering relationships and how important that is to the Confidence Effect.
We will start with relationships. According to Killelea, the first tool in moving from competence to confidence involves understanding and mastering the power of relationships. This is often an area people think they should navigate alone, but according to Killelea, the fact is that powerful relationships can greatly enhance and accelerate our ladder to success. I know that I keep saying I love the message Killelea is trying to convey, but folks…it’s so true! We often think that the work place is no place for relationships (and I’m not referring to romantic relationships), but legitimate connections with the people you work with. Killelea considers this “the power of relationships.” Our relationships are connected to our networking abilities, which she considers one of the “secret ingredients” to becoming confident to the core.
Many women form fun, lasting, and friendly relationships at work that don’t necessarily contribute to their growth as potential leaders but do promote their physical and emotional well-being. This is healthy and good. It enhances our experience at work. I most definitely can relate to this, and at times to a fault. I have a number of very special relationships I have made at a number of my previous places of work, and while they didn’t all necessarily benefit me in terms of promotion etc., they gave me an emotional sense of worth at work, which at times can be very lacking when it comes to your day-to-day activities and deadlines. According to Killelea, these powerful relationships come in many different forms:
- The team member who supports, challenges, nurtures, and enlightens you
- The manager who drives you to excel
- The peer who supports, encourages, and aids your desire for personal and professional growth
- The mentor who continually questions and challenges your choices, often with a positive result
- The people you trust who tell you the truth
- The leader who inspires you
- The powerful allies and sponsors who can open doors and provide you with opportunities
I have always been brought up to kill people with kindness…no matter what. I have even been criticized at work for being, “too nice.” But, you know what? People have nice things to say about me. I haven’t been labeled unapproachable or someone who always says “no.” That is extremely important to me, because it better reflects exactly who I am outside of work. Here is one of the main reasons why, because you never know – peers become managers, managers become leaders, and team members get promoted, shifted, downsized, or move on to different organizations or companies. According to Killelea, the larger and more powerful your network, the more dynamic, changing and powerful you become as you grow along with it. And, consequently, the fewer relationships you’ve fostered in and out of the workplace, the fewer resources you’ll be able to draw on in times of need.
The next topic is something I personally experience and believe is so important: mentors, sponsors, advocates, and champions. It’s important to note here that these are not one in the same, but indeed have different roles they play in your life. EVP and COO of Cox Communications, Jill Campbell, insists on the matter of mentors versus sponsors, “People talk a lot about having mentors. I think that’s important. But I think it’s equally important that you have a sponsor. Women tend to think that their work is going to get them there, but they’ve got to figure out somebody in the organization that is going to take notice of them and who says, ‘Wait a minute! What about Jean?'” According to Killelea, identify advocates and develop an authentic relationship with them. The key here for me is the word “authentic.” Don’t choose someone to be your sponsor because he or she is a director or a VP and can help you climb the latter. In actuality, that person probably won’t want to give you five minutes because 1. they are generally very busy people and 2. they will pick up on how un-authentic or authentic you truly are.
I have someone who began as an advocate for me while he was a director, and my boss, and who eventually became my mentor as he moved into a higher leadership level of VP. We established an authentic relationship that to this day means very much to me, and while he advocated and helped me move through my career, once he stepped into a busier and more demanding role he became my mentor and someone I could come to with work-related issues or tough decisions I knew I was going to have to make. He is that person who will ALWAYS give it to me straight. I came to him one day very upset because I had gotten some feedback that I felt was completely erroneous. He put it into perspective for me. While he didn’t agree that the feedback I received was 100% accurate, he did want me to think about it in a way of, “what if a tiny bit of it was true?” Then what? While I was surprised by it, I also understood what he was trying to do. Everyone needs someone like that in their professional life.
Killelea says that advocates are at tables that you are not, and they can open doors for you. They can speak on your behalf, and really fight a battle for you or get in front of you, when you would never have the opportunity or you don’t know the opportunities that exist. An example I have of the importance of an advocate was during a scary time where layoffs were happening. I lost all of my team during that layoff. Only two of us were left standing, and we were reorganized onto other teams. I was also brand new to that team (only about 3 months) so I felt even more vulnerable to losing my job than most. When I realized I was OK and I was staying I had to leave the office to get some air. I had never, and have yet to experience this since, but literally it felt like the air had been sucked out of the room. On my way out of the office to go for a walk around the block, I ran into that person I described above. He asked me if I was OK. I told him yes, but that I had lost all of my team and had been moved to a new team. He told me that when he saw the plan for layoffs the first thing he asked was if “Nikki was going to be OK.” He told me that if I had been on the layoff list he would have figured out a place for me on his team. That meant more to me than anything…especially given the day I had been having. That is an advocate (BTW he was still at the director level – remember, I mentioned that he moved from advocate to mentor for me over time).
Simply put by Killelea, relationships strengthen your network, and in turn, your network strengthens your organizational brand. Remember, all of your workplace behavior reflects on your brand. The stronger your brand, the stronger your confidence level – real and perceived. Killelea says to think of your brand as as the unwritten – but undeniable – “echo” that remains after you leave the room. So, ask yourself:
- What is left behind for people to remember?
- What is the impression that remains long after you’re gone?
- How did you treat people?
- What did you say?
- How did you say it?
- Whom did you say it to?
- How was it received?
For women especially, how you treat people and how proficient you are in your current role is what really helps determine how strong – or weak – your personal brands may be. Killelea explains that a good place to start building those relationships is also through LinkedIn, which has become such an important platform to have as updated in real time as possible. Killelea also points out that many times women think they’re networking when, in fact, they’re not – so Killelea has a basic definition: IPO: Information, Power and Opportunity.
Information – Networking is first and foremost an information gathering – and giving exercise. If you’re socializing, great, but don’t call it networking. If you come away from a social, business, or marketing event and know nothing more than you did when you arrived, then you’re not networking. Collecting a handful of business cards is not networking.
Power – Power comes from knowledge, which is why all three of the IPO components are so vitally important to your networking activities.
Opportunity – too many women all think that opportunity will magically waltz into their cubicles and whisk them away to the corner office. They believe the world is “fair,” they will be promoted. Fact is, opportunity is waiting to be discovered around every corner, in every new relationship, and at every meeting.
Killelea says that one of the many misconceptions about networking is that it requires a stern, stiff, and well-rehearsed elevator speech with which to introduce or “sell” yourself. When in fact, IPO – information, power and opportunity – is the fuel that jump starts new information and cements new relationships. Be genuine and your authentic self and the rest will follow when it comes to networking, plus you’ll be more comfortable and not feel like you’re selling a version of yourself to someone.
Another section of the book I found useful was about delegation. Working hard is not the answer. For too many women, working hard seems to be the answer to everything, as if by doing everything, all at once, by ourselves, we can prove we’re worthy of that promotion, raise, or corner office. According to Killelea, in having this perspective we may overlook those team and subordinate relationships that can help us achieve more with less. Learning to delegate allows you the space and the time to lift your head among the crush of work to build your brand and network.
Something that strikes me, and I often see happen, and as Killelea points out, as we move into more senior roles, the work should become less tactical (operational) and more strategic (high-level leadership). This is true and all find and good unless you delegate and then quickly step in to micromanage. This happens I think frequently and unconsciously with women, however we have got to let the reins go! A good delegator, does just, delegates, and then if it looks like it’s going south and the person needs some help, then it’s time to step in and help right the situation. Help is the key word there, not yank it from that persons hands and take it over to fix it yourself. Fail fast, but give your team the chance to do it first. According to Killelea, true delegation relies on trust: trusting team members to do the job to your standards even when you’re not there to micromanage them every step of the way.
I could go on and on about how great this book is, but then you wouldn’t have to go read it yourself, so I’ll wrap things up. As I mentioned in my first installment of this review, I had picked the book up at a time where I don’t think I was in the right head space to receive it. I think that books such as Killelea’s really have to come to you at the right time, but I hope that just by reading this blog post you have a good taste of what the book has for you. It helped me think introspectively, as well as take a look at and examine how I may come off to others. I was able to take inventory of where I am now, how I got here and the people who helped me along the way. I encourage you to do yourself a favor and read it for yourself (and take notes), it’s well worth the time!