Angela Guido starts Forté’s December Women Lead webinar with a confession of sorts. Earlier in her career, when she worked as a management consultant at the Boston Consulting Group, she was too focused on doing good work to think strategically about who was going to help her advance. Angela quickly learned that when it comes to career success, however, it’s not what you know—it’s who knows you.
Lessons like this from her own career, which has spanned two decades and three continents, most recently inspired Angela to launch Career Protocol to provide elite personal development programs to the world’s emerging business leaders. Ultimately, she says her mission is to help professionals succeed while having fun, and she emphasizes that relationships make work meaningful.
In reflecting on the advice she shares during the webinar, Angela notes it’s intended to position you so your network often creates opportunities for you, instead of you always having to ask. “That’s not to say that you shouldn’t ask,” she adds. “When you know it’s time to ratchet up your growth, or ask for a raise or a promotion, have the courage to do it. But if you’ve built really strong relationships at all levels, it’s going to be a lot easier to ask for what you want.”
Types of Upstream Relationships
Angela opens the webinar by highlighting how relationships become increasingly important the more senior you get. While your resume can help you achieve early career goals, she says, other people will often create the opportunities for you as you advance. Typically, this happens through upstream relationships, which are formed with people who rank higher than you.
To offer additional context before providing her relationship advice, she first describes three of the roles superiors can play in your career.
- Mentors guide, coach, and help develop you, and they’re everywhere. To find them, identify a few people who are great at a skill you want to improve.
- Champions sing your praises when you aren’t in the room. While you’ll have fewer of them in your career, they’re especially important if you work in a large organization or in a client service business.
- Sponsors stake their reputation on you to personally ensure you advance. You’ll likely need at least one or two to reach the top.
Timeless Wisdom and Strategies for Upward Management
At the heart of her presentation, Angela shares “timeless wisdom about human nature” and the five career strategies you can employ in your upstream relationships to play to it—and turn an important mentor into a sponsor. Watch the December webinar to learn more about this valuable advice, and to benefit from a great question and answer session.
- Everyone wants to be of service; leverage the wisdom of others. Once again drawing from her early management consulting days, Angela describes how she sabotaged her advancement by “toiling in silence” and trying to figure things out on her own in an effort to impress her managers. She instead learned you need to be confident while asking for help, explaining you must iterate early and often; know what you know and what you don’t know; give before you ask; and realize there are no dumb questions when starting out. Watch the webinar for a specific example of how you can ask for guidance effectively, leaving the door open for others to share their experience and creating a deeper connection, in turn.
- People will help you if you make it easy for them; make feedback easy on the giver. Angela emphasizes that our own development is up to us until every manager is a great manager and every company is organized around apprenticeship. She says the keys to getting great feedback are to own it, be timely, and be specific. She talks through helpful examples during the webinar, and encourages you to ask those giving feedback to share more if they say something helpful. It’s not a burden; it gives them another chance to be of service.
- True friendship blossoms over time; keep in touch. There are endless reasons to reach out. Perhaps you received, implemented, or benefited from feedback. Maybe you were recommended or connected with someone. Perhaps you just met someone who knows your contact. The bottom line is, you should always follow up.
- Everyone appreciates service; add surprising value. In addition to knowing how to get help from senior people, you should think about unique intellectual capital you possess and share it. This could be as simple as sending contacts an interesting article. During the webinar, Angela describes helpful tools for tracking and sharing knowledge capital, such as InsideView, Newsle, FollowUpThen, and Contactually.
- You can never have too many friends; always be making new connections. It’s important to remember there’s significant value in attending networking events, taking colleagues to lunch, asking for introductions, etc. While this can be tougher if you have a preference for introversion, she says, it becomes much easier if you set small goals and achieve them over time.
Closing Advice: Be in Demand
Angela ends her presentation with powerful words that can help guide us all in the New Year: “Don’t stand alone in your career. Be in demand,” she says.
“Have your support network, build it, maintain it, think strategically about it, and give people around you the chance to help you grow and advance.”
For more resources, view the webinar and download Angela Guido’s free Upward Management Toolkit for the Forté network. The toolkit provides a copy of the presentation materials plus other valuable tips.