Elevating future leaders

From the classroom to the corner office

​A conversation with Teresa Briggs, Michelle Kerrick, and Tamika Tremaglio on the importance of mentorship and sponsorship throughout your career.

Interview with Teresa Briggs, Michelle Kerrick, and Tamika Tremaglio

Mentors and sponsors assume powerful roles in the workplace. Mentors offer encouragement and help guide others through a rough patch if needed. Sponsors turn guidance into opportunity, putting their names on the line for the advancement of a promising colleague.

Three of our regional leaders discussed how mentors helped shape their careers, how executives can support students and early-career professionals, and how organizations can build and sustain a culture of mentorship and sponsorship.

How have mentors and sponsors helped you in your careers?

Michelle Kerrick (MK), Deloitte’s Los Angeles managing partner: I had two mentors in particular who had a big influence on me. One was a former Deloitte partner who taught me a great deal about client service. He also helped me find my way around Deloitte. The other mentor works outside professional services and helped me build business skills and gain the ability to take a long-term view. That’s a critical ability, one that all business leaders need to rely on.

Tamika Tremaglio (TT), Deloitte’s Greater Washington managing principal: Like Michelle, I’ve been privileged to have a diverse set of mentors, including, quite frankly, those who didn’t look like me. They pushed me outside my comfort zone and also allowed me to run with new experiences, while also giving me the opportunity to fail and learn from those situations. That type of exposure has played a big role in shaping my own leadership style as I transitioned to leading the Greater Washington marketplace.

Teresa Briggs (TB), Deloitte’s West region market leader and San Francisco managing partner: We’ve all been fortunate in this regard at Deloitte. In my case, it was a committed sponsor at Deloitte who looked out for me, pulling me into a role that exposed me to senior management across our organization. It wasn’t a formal arrangement, and I don’t think it has to be. The connection happened naturally. And it was successful because there was a culture that made the relationship possible. Thanks to this sponsor I’ve had the ability to explore opportunities, take risks, and seek new challenges throughout my career.

What about future professionals? How can Deloitte best serve them as mentors?

TT: I believe we have a responsibility to lead by example and to lift others up. I think some of our corporate citizenship programs in Greater Washington, like our Adopt-a-School program at McKinley Tech in Washington, D.C. and Mentoring Matters with the United Way serve as great examples of this. You see our Business of Kindness Campaign in action through these programs, providing students with positive encouragement, and sharing with them ideas for how they can pay that kindness forward. I also had the honor of speaking at the Washington School for the Girls as part of Women’s History Month. The opportunity to get in front of young people, to focus on college readiness, we’re especially proud of that work and allows us to help shape the future workforce.

MK: In Los Angeles, we’re also working to lead by example. Each year our professionals volunteer their time and skills to nonprofits across the region. We want young people to make those connections now and have support as they move to the workplace. There has to be a strategy in place, and execution to make it happen. Look at the research: We just had our global survey of C-level executives and less than a quarter think their organizations have influence over factors like education. I go back to what Tamika says: We all have a responsibility to our youth.

TT: Yes, and we have a phenomenal opportunity to make an impact, with nearly 12,000 professionals in the Greater Washington marketplace. One of the projects I’m proud of, one that I think helps us make a clear connection between Deloitte and the local community, is the Mentoring Matters program we co-sponsor with United Way of the National Capital Area, to bring high-quality mentoring to young people across the region. We’re fortunate that our professionals are engaged in this work to help the next generation.

How do you create meaningful mentoring opportunities in the workplace?

TB: Well, these aren’t skills that necessarily come naturally. I tell people that person-to-person relationships across all stages of their careers are important. Define why you want to pursue a particular path. As senior leaders, we have a particular perspective. We know the traits that are likely best for people to gain access to many new opportunities in our organization. At the core, creating meaningful mentoring opportunities is about helping emerging leaders develop those traits to reach a goal. There has to be an objective, and mentors and sponsors have to step in and take actionable steps to help one get there.

MK: That’s where bold leadership comes in!

TB: That’s correct. You have both mentioned responsibility–I often talk about the responsibility leaders have to drive innovation through inclusion. It takes a commitment to thoughtful and creative solutions. We strongly believe in mentorship initiatives that cultivate an individual’s unique talents, experiences, and interests, and we search for opportunities to amplify their unique strengths every day. We also strive to provide people with opportunities and support to focus on their well-being, to own their career, and to personalize their experience. We want them to be able to grow professionally and reach their full potential. It’s exciting to invest in our professionals and see them evolve and do something great.

Mentors inspire loyalty: A Deloitte millennial survey found that respondents intending to stay with their organization for at least five years were more than twice as likely to have a mentor (68 percent) versus those who didn’t (32 percent).

MK: We should also be thinking about ways mentors and sponsors can help shape corporate leadership. I go back to that long-term view. Leaders who take up the charge of mentors and sponsors can actually help their organizations attract a broader talent pool over the long run. That translates to more diverse teams, and can even help change the makeup of a board over time. In our region, we are known for creativity, ingenuity, breaking norms… so we have to approach our work and the way we design our workplaces for greater diversity of thought.

TT: That’s very true, and relevant to a theme. I recently read an article in Harvard Business Review that resonated with me. It talks about the importance of mentors helping you work through emotions. I loved it because it talked about having a board of advisers, people you can communicate with to talk about some of those tougher challenges in the workplace. I’m grateful because I have been blessed to have that support through mentors and my own board of advisers who have let me be my authentic self throughout my career. I wouldn’t be where I am today without that guidance.

How can we create better opportunities for sponsorship?

TB: No matter who you are, a good sponsor can provide professional guidance. Sponsors have helped me immensely in my career. Someone who’ll help open doors for you, open their network to you. Sometimes this happens well ahead of the time you think you’re ready for it! I also go back to the importance of nurturing relationships at every stage of your career. They aren’t manufactured, or often by formal assignments, as often they develop organically. Ideally, that person is a high performer who is open-minded. They are willing to take risks that lead to new opportunities and challenges.

Mutual benefits of sponsorship: Sponsorees can gain career-boosting insight and exposure; sponsors can develop as leaders, savoring the success of the people they push forward.

TT: And those challenges are unpredictable, as we know. The environment is always changing, our communities are changing, technology is changing. The world will look different tomorrow, next year, and dramatically different in a generation. Jobs we hold now won’t likely exist in 2040. We need leaders who will support a culture of courage. Teresa’s right: Nurturing those relationships is important. And kindness is at the core.

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