Originally published on LinkedIn Pulse

By all accounts, the past 18 months have been the most productive in my professional career. Among the highlights: 2 significant promotions, new and exciting projects and increased responsibilities. How did all this happen? 5 People!

What changed in 2018 that made 2019 so productive? Paraphrasing a Buddhist saying, when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. In my case, there were five “teachers”. I believe everyone needs these 5 people in their lives.

In the context of this article, their names are not import. Their roles, however, are critical. To make your 2020 more productive I suggest you identify people to fill these three key roles: your Network, your Mentor and your Sponsor.

Your Network

5 People

According to Shakespeare “A rose by any other name is still a rose.” Whether you call it a mastermind group, your peers or simply your network, these people will will be the foundation of your growth. Their role is to help you see your current position or situation from different angles and perspectives.

My team of three includes professionals from other industries, co-workers of equal stature, both sexes and in varied stages of family and career development. Having disparate voices and experiences help refocus ideas, put problems in perspective and recognize and act on opportunities.

Your Mentor

A working definition of a mentor is an experienced person in the company who trains and counsels new employees. In better companies this person is assigned but in most cases you will have to find this person in your company.

I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to work directly for my mentor. After being transferred to his team, he gave me the opportunity to find my voice in this company. To this day he takes the time to answer every question that I have and others that I haven’t thought about.

Your Sponsor

I’ve been fortunate to have two sponsors in my time this company. Both of them in positions of power, able to shape decisions at the highest levels. Different from a mentor, this person willingly spends their political capital on your behalf.

5 People
Photo: Callie Giovanna / TED

In her 2018 TED Talk, “How to find the person who can help you get ahead at work” (Click Here to view), Carla Harris explains that in many professional settings this is a relationship which must be earned and cultivated. It is earned through your objectively measurable performance and cultivated by your interpersonal skills.

Once your sponsor is secured, you have a powerful advocate who can ensure your name, performance and your capabilities are raised and advanced during critical, decision making conversations.

Start Building

At the center of all of this, of course, is you. Your ability and willingness to bring value to your co-workers will create a strong network looking to bring value back to you. In the business world that value manifests as performance results.

While mentors gravitate to the top performers on their teams, it is up to you to leverage your mentor’s experience and institutional knowledge. Ask her the questions that seem uncomfortable. Read him in on your cost saving or revenue generating idea to get his insights and suggestions. Most importantly, listen to everything and act on the suggestions that feel right to you.

Your performance results, “outside of the box’ actions and your relationships will, in most cases, get you noticed by a sponsor. If you feel nature is taking to long to run it’s course, take the steps Ms. Harris describes to identify and recruit one.

My team has 5 people… yours may end up with more. Regardless of the number of people, this triumvirate can provide you support when you need it, guidance to navigate dangerous waters and vision beyond the horizon.


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