Owning Your Career Path – Ep.53

Building Career Success – Ep.52
May 18, 2022
A Moment of Pause – Ep.54
June 8, 2022

Sheryl Brinkley discusses navigating through career path pivots, shares tips on how to take ownership of your own path, and offers advice for becoming a better leader.

Melyssa Barrett:  Welcome to The Jali Podcast, I’m your host Melyssa Barrett. This podcast is for those who are interested in the conversation around diversity, inclusion, and equity. Each week, I’ll be interviewing a guest who has something special to share, or is actively part of building solutions in this space. Let’s get started.

Sheryl Brinkley is the founder and CEO of ITM Coaching Next Level, is an International Coaching Federation Certified Executive Coach, and is a certified Leadership Development Professional specializing in Mid-level Career Progression and Acceleration. She is passionate about working with emerging and mid-level female leaders aspiring to continue up the platinum staircase and into senior leader and executive level seats. Sheryl’s decades of experience in Fortune 100 public, private tech, and utility sectors have given her a wide and varied lens on leadership environments. She leverages her own acumen and talent pipeline program strategy and delivery in her approach with working with clients and within organizations. Sheryl is a proud bay area native and holds an MBA from Holy Names University, a certification from UC Berkeley, Haas School of Business Women’s Executive Leadership Program, and holds a specialty certification in Emotional Intelligence EQ-i2.0, her core values are faith, family, and fulfillment.

And notes that her personal mission statement is to live the fullest expression of herself and to help others do the same. She is an avid learner and believes in the continuous pursuit of self actualization in all forms. She enjoys travel, photography, reading, roller skating, listening to podcasts and audio books, is a lover of fashion, beauty, and of the arts. All right, so every week, I’m excited. I’m again excited. And I use that word all the time. I’m so excited all the time, but this week we are so pleased to have Sheryl Brinkley with us. It is truly an honor and a privilege. I have had the pleasure of knowing Sheryl for I’ll say decades.

Sheryl Brinkley:  Yes.

Melyssa Barrett:  I’m just so happy that you have come on to have a conversation because you’re doing wonderful things in the world, and I always want to showcase people that are doing those things.

Sheryl Brinkley:  Melyssa, thank you so much for having me on your podcast.

Melyssa Barrett:  It is my pleasure, so let me just start by asking you to, most people have probably heard your bio by now as I’ve introduced you, but why don’t you just tell us a little bit about how you got to where you are right now in your own career?

Sheryl Brinkley:  Okay. In my career, well-

Melyssa Barrett:  Or in your personal life? I mean, it’s not one thing or another, right? We are our whole self.

Sheryl Brinkley:  I mean, I think everything brings us to where we are. I’m going to say I am a product of being born and raised in Oakland. My family had origins there first and my dad was in the Navy when I was born and born in Oakland Naval Hospital, educated in elementary school, years in Oakland. And then my family migrated to Union City when I was in the seventh grade, and I finished my education there, and graduated high school in Union City. Went on to Cal State – East Bay, had a trip through Chabot College initially, I got my associates there and completed the process there and then transferred on to Cal State – East Bay and continued my education. And I still am an avid learner. I don’t feel like the journey’s ever over, but as far as my career paths, I mean, I’ve worked in different… In college worked retail Macy’s was my first job. And I worked my way through college. I paid for my education. At that time, you can do that on a part-time salary. I’m very proud of that.

Melyssa Barrett:  Yeah.

Sheryl Brinkley:  And I got myself through undergrad working that part-time job. And so my path took me through working for the State of California, I worked for the federal government, I’ve worked in operations at Pepsi Cola. I’ve worked at JPMorgan Chase in IT, and brief [inaudible 00:05:05] at Cisco, and then onto PG&E. And so I feel like I’ve worked and touched a lot of different industries in my time. And I feel like I will say it in God’s economy, nothing is wasted, nothing is wasted. And even though there are challenges and hills and valleys and different kind of past twists and turns in there, you’re learning at every juncture. You’re learning at every juncture. And I choose to store those experiences away and learn from them. Not only learn from them, but how can I help somebody else in their journey and their professional development.

And so while at PG&E I’ve had the benefit of taking full advantage of their employee resources, not only ERGs, but tuition refund program. I have gone back to school in there and received certifications and leadership and employee development. And so it’s interesting because when you’re working, you don’t always know where you’re going to end up. And when I think about where I am now and looking back, it’s like there’s something embedded in each and every one of us, and we know it from childhood, we really do. And sometimes parents or other well meaning adults redirect us, no, you need to be a doctor. No, you need to this or that, right. And take people off the path. But I feel like I’ve always been a coach, in my life. And I think that my earliest experiences bared that out.

However, being a quote unquote, life coach or executive coach was, there’s no verbiage for that back then, or as I was shaping my career, so you have to go through experiences and grow through experiences to find your way, but it was in leadership that I discovered that my superpower was coaching, mentoring, developing people. Now I didn’t have like a well thought out framework around that, but I knew that, that was the best part of my job. That I lit up and I was able to really help other people. Now, all that other stuff that comes with being a leader is part of the package. You’ve got to do it all.

You’ve got to do it all well, but that was the secret sauce for me. And so then I was on this quest to try to figure out how do I get more of just this stuff right here? And my former leader that I worked for had come through my job site at one point, because I was in San Francisco, and I was in San Ramon and I said, I really like doing these three things. He says, oh, that’s you all day? That’s you all day. I’m like, I’m trying to figure out how to get myself more of this. He says, yeah, you’ll figure it out. And so that’s kind of the origin story of myself and my path. And I couldn’t say that I could be here without the support of my family, and my parents in particular, and the work ethic, and all of that spiritual undergirding that I have in order to really feel like, oh, I’m walking in my purpose and my passion, so that’s where I am now.

Melyssa Barrett:  Yeah, I have known you for so many years and I know all of the work that you do in the community in mentoring and really kind of giving people. I mean, you’ve always been so candid but in a such a loving way to help people understand where they are. How did you come to realize, you talked a little bit about the person interacting with you, how’d you come to realize like, you know what, I’m going to do this coaching thing?

Sheryl Brinkley:  Again. I feel as though I was called to it. I had a mentor at work, we were talking during one of our quarterly meetups and I was working through what I want to do next basically, she asked me the question, like what do you want to do? And I was like, I was stumped. I was like, I didn’t have like, it specifically defined.

Melyssa Barrett:  Right.

Sheryl Brinkley:  I was like, oh girl, you need to go back and think about this answer and put some thought into this before you come back to the table and ask for any more of her time, you know, when you asking for senior leaders’ time now, you need to do your part as a mentee and prepare and come prepared.

Melyssa Barrett:  Right.

Sheryl Brinkley:  And so I was like, when she asked me that question, I was like, oh, I don’t have this figured out. Let me go back to the sea shed, let me go back to the sea shed and try to [inaudible 00:10:20] this thing and figure this out and start asking some questions. And so I had applied for a role that I thought was a level up position, the title sounded sexy. I was like, that’s it, that’s me, that’s what I’m going to do. I applied for it and they wrote me back with a thank you for your application, but you don’t meet the minimal qualifications. I was like, excuse me, I have the minimum qualifications. And so I reached back out to my mentor because it sat in her organization and I said, Hey, I was like, listen, I got this recruiting thing saying that I don’t meet the minimum qualifications.

And so she says, well, let me do this. Let me introduce you to the hiring manager. Let’s let you have a conversation with her. Let’s talk about it. And then also talk to her about her career journey, talk to her about her career journey and let’s take it from there. And so I met with the hiring manager and she was very gracious in her conversation. And I had prayed before I went in that conversation. I’m like, Lord, let me understand what this is and make it very clear, okay? Make it very clear. And I’m telling you in the first five minutes when she said the job title does not belie basically the responsibility, you’re overqualified for this position and you’re making more money in this role. I was like, all right, Lord, you done and answered the question right there in the first couple of minutes.

I was like, okay, let me just hush up and let her tell me the rest of what she needs to tell me about, so I was like, we put that to bed. I’m like, okay, so let’s just… Listen note to everybody, the job titles don’t always equate to the money that you want, and also the amount of responsibility, so don’t take it personal, right?

Melyssa Barrett:  Yes.

Sheryl Brinkley:  That you get these kind of responses from recruiting and personally, my feedback was recruiting needs a different template that addresses these kinds of cases, because it had me thinking that there was something else going on as to why I was not being able to move forward in the process.

Melyssa Barrett:  Yes,

Sheryl Brinkley:  They used this canned template that was not fitting for my situation. And so that was a note and piece of feedback that I wanted recruiting to understand, so this individual, this leader went on to tell me about her pivot, her education and her career experience was as an accounting controller. She worked in accounting, okay.

Melyssa Barrett:  Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Sheryl Brinkley:  However, she’s now working in leadership and employee development. And I’m like, how do you get from accounting to leadership employee development, right? Because that kind of lends itself to more of an HR kind of space.

Melyssa Barrett:  Yes.

Sheryl Brinkley:  And so I’m listening very closely because you know what I was doing at the time, and my education is not in HR, okay? This was a really key person for me to receive this career pivot information from, because it helped me in my pivot. And so she was saying to me that getting a certification, well, I told her off the bat, I wanted to be a coach. I had figured it out at that point after talking to my mentor before I talked to her that, oh, coach. I want to be a coach. Now I hadn’t defined what kind of coach it was, but coach right. And so I said, I want to be a coach. And so she says, you know what years ago, this is somebody who’s been with the company like 25 years at that time. At the time earlier, years ago we had executive coaches on staff but we’ve pivoted from that. And now if we need one, we just contract for one, and your background isn’t in HR.

However, if you get a certification or go back and get some education in OD organization and development, or in LD leadership development that will kind of set you up in a good place for understanding the landscape. And so here I go, looking at universities like NYC, Georgetown, just different universities, trying to figure out how do I go about getting this certification or getting this education that I need in order to make this pivot. And a lot of those programs have more of an HR track and it’s maybe a component or some classes embedded in it, but I’m like, I already have a master’s, I don’t want to go back and get another master’s. I just want to focus on this one thing, and so I did find a program where I can just get the leadership development certification, and that was my first foray into moving into my pivot.

And it was more of an order of operation because for her, she was thinking, get this first. And I was like, okay, I’m going to get this first. And I am still going to get this coaching, okay. I’m still going to get this because that’s really what I want, but I know that sometimes you have to take a path and a road, prerequisites if you will, right.

Melyssa Barrett:  Yeah.

Sheryl Brinkley:  You get this before you can get that. And so that’s what I did in Summer of 2015, I did that. And then a blessing came my way as I was waiting. I met someone else along the way and heard about the Hudson Institute of Coaching in Santa Barbara. And so I looked at other programs for coaching, but I just kept coming back to this one, the methodology and the approach was something that was very intriguing to me. And that is where I completed my coaching certification. Yeah, so it’s like again, twists and turns to find your way. But in the meantime I’m still working. I’m still working my day job, I’m still honing my craft, I’m still learning through the process, I’m still developing as a leader, I’m still seeking opportunities to equip myself so that I can be positioned to help someone else.

Melyssa Barrett:  Yeah. And I know what’s interesting to me about your career is, and I talked to some people about this where when you think about where you want to go, a lot of times you think about the vertical acceleration, but you don’t really think about the influence that you create across the organization horizontally. And I know you talk about that a lot in your own career in terms of kind of identifying what you want to do, but also really being able to make the impact because of the influence that you have.

Sheryl Brinkley:  Yeah. That’s a key point and I’m not sure what year it was, but Deloitte coined the phrase of the career lattice. And I nickname it, the rock wall because people who have done rock climbing maybe at the gym or rock wall at the fun place or whatever, or actually gone out to the wilderness and climbed a mountain and climbed a rock, right?

Melyssa Barrett:  Right.

Sheryl Brinkley:  There’s no straight line about it. You’ve got to feel your way. You feel your way in the pockets with your hands, and your feet, and your body, and you’re moving side to side, up, down, back, you’re moving in a lot of directions, but the ultimate destination is up.

Melyssa Barrett:  Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Sheryl Brinkley:  But it’s not straight up.

Melyssa Barrett:  Right.

Sheryl Brinkley:  And so we like to call it a career journey because if you’ve ever have a vehicle where you drive and along a mountainous road, and you’re going around these twists and turns and blind corners and you’re going, you don’t always know what’s around the bend, but isn’t it glorious though, when you come around one of those bends and then you see the expanse of the trees and all of this below you and how glorious the sky looks, it’s like, wow, how did I get here? Well, there was a lot going on, nail biting, cliff hangers, hanging off with one hand, trying to hold on and the kiss and cry room and all this stuff to get to where you’re trying to go.

Melyssa Barrett:  Yeah.

Sheryl Brinkley:  And people say, even with celebrities, they say, oh, this person’s a overnight success. That’s not true. You’re just seeing me at the moment where I’ve now hit the apex of all of what I’ve been doing to prepare to get here. But listen, it’s been a whole lot of stuff, a whole lot of stuff, and a whole lot of people in and out of your life to get you where you are.

Melyssa Barrett:  I know in your bio, you talk about the platinum staircase and you know, but I think a lot of times you can’t even, you often have challenges specifically, and I’ll say specifically with people of color when they’re trying to ascend that platinum staircase and whether it’s confidence or connection, what kind of advice would you give to folks who are trying to really take control of their career? Because I think there aren’t necessarily coaches that companies pay for as much. They are for senior executives, but a lot of times we have to invest in ourselves, so how should somebody start?

Sheryl Brinkley:  I think that’s an excellent question. And I appreciate you asking that question. I’ve been a diversity inclusion leader in my company for many years now. And the plight of women, professional women in general is just different. Yeah, and then you layer on an ethnic layer to it.

Melyssa Barrett:  Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Sheryl Brinkley:  There are other things, but as I work with professional women, there are themes that just run across the gamut. Now where to start is really, I really feel taking ownership of your own career.

Melyssa Barrett:  Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Sheryl Brinkley:  Okay. Now we just cannot leave it to other people to give us more of what we want.

Melyssa Barrett:  Let’s pause for a moment. We’ll be right back.

Sheryl Brinkley:  Until a person expresses that they really want to be a leader, everybody around you is comfortable with you doing what you’re doing.

Melyssa Barrett:  Right.

Sheryl Brinkley:  Now, the minute you say hello, I want to be a leader. Oh, you want to be a leader? Ding, it’s like all of a sudden, it’s like the door has started open and the sky’s open like welcome, welcome. Oh, she wants to be a leader. Let’s bring her in. Let’s bring her in. Let’s put her on the docket, let’s start giving her experiences. Until you open your mouth and express that, your leader is content with you doing the job that you have before you, they’re not really thinking about your path forward. Now I will just say, there are some amazing leaders who are very people centric. And when they have their one on ones with you, they will ask you questions to try to pull out of you what you want to do next? What are you thinking? What’s on the horizon for you? What’s in your development plan?

But there are a lot of leaders that don’t even… Do you have a development plan? They don’t ever ask for it.

Melyssa Barrett:  Right.

Sheryl Brinkley:  Now that starts with me. I need to have a development plan. I need to have some sort of path. Now I don’t personally subscribe to having a five year plan or whatever, because I like to leave room for opportunities that may arise. And you can’t always script that in.

Melyssa Barrett:  Right.

Sheryl Brinkley:  Okay. You can’t always script it in. And even in my own case working with the mentor, several mentors, I got an introduction from another colleague to someone. She says, you’ve got to meet him. You’ve got to meet him. He’s he’s great. And I think he’s going to be able to help you. And we talked about career direction and that sort of thing. And I have a story to tell, but I’m going to try to answer your question on this point here first, before we get there. But it does start with me. I mean, I have to express to my leader what my desires are.

Now I may not know how to get there, but that’s where my navigator comes in because my navigator can now look across the work that’s coming, emergent work, maybe some cross-functional things that are coming up with other teams that they can get you plugged into. That they can start working on your development. And if the leader is really savvy, if they’re really like plugged in, they’d be really keen to start giving you feedback that’s going to help shape you becoming more of that leader that you need to present yourself to be, to be positioned and ready for the opportunity when it comes up.

Melyssa Barrett:  Yeah, definitely. Do you want to tell your story?

Sheryl Brinkley:  I will tell my story.

Melyssa Barrett:  Because the stories are what make the whole thing.

Sheryl Brinkley:  Let me tell you my story here.

Melyssa Barrett:  Come on.

Sheryl Brinkley:  Working for my company, there was an opportunity years ago. And when I was hired into this leadership role, my leader hired me to be her successor. It was not a secret. She had a T-minus five or whatever in her mind about retirement. Hired me to be her successor, she told me that. Not only did she tell me that she told everyone else in the organization, like she’s going to be my successor, so coming in as a supervisor, she was looking for me to grow and to step into her role as a manager, when she decided to retire. And so she said, give me a three year commitment. I’m like, okay, she was going to take you about three years to really get your sea legs and all that.

I’m like, sure, sure. Now three years in I’m like, all right. Now, love the group, love the people, love my team. But as far as what I wanted to do in that three years is where I discovered where my passion was and where my superpower was. And that was coaching, mentoring, developing. And so in that three years, I’m trying to figure out how do I get more of this, okay?

Melyssa Barrett:  Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Sheryl Brinkley:  Not so much ascending into her role because her role is more of the same, okay. Not more of what, and that’s where the quest came in the middle of me doing my day to day delivery and having these other experiences and getting these other types of, well, the leadership and employee development certification happened in that time. The funny thing is, before I could pivot out, she announced her retirement and posted her job. And I was not applying for the job. Hello, hello everybody.

Melyssa Barrett:  Right.

Sheryl Brinkley:  If Sheryl’s not applying for the job. And we had a conversation right in the time that the job was live. And she says, well, I noticed that you haven’t applied for the job. And I’m like, that’s true, that’s true. I’m thinking about it. But I wasn’t telling her that I was thinking about a pivot though. I wasn’t telling her about that, you know? And so she says, I understand, I completely understand that you may feel overwhelmed or like this is a lot, or you’re not ready. You know, I totally get it. We all have those feelings. And I was in my mind going, well, those are not the feelings I have. They’re not the feelings I have, but I’m not ready to tell her, right?

Melyssa Barrett:  Right.

Sheryl Brinkley:   I’m not ready to tell her about what I’m cooking up, right. So I was talking to a friend, I had lunch with a friend and he was saying, I was telling him what she said. He said, oh, you better let her know that you’re not taking that job because you are afraid. You need to let her know that you got something else in mind. And so the lesson learned in that moment was take control of your own communications.

Melyssa Barrett:  Yes.

Sheryl Brinkley:  You need to control your own narrative here because she’s going to go back and tell all these other people that you are afraid and you’re not ready and all this stuff, and that was not the case. I didn’t want it because I had something else in mind. And so I had to have a crucial conversation. You guys all know the book, crucial conversations. I had to go back and have a crucial conversation with my leader to share with her that I’m thinking about something else. And now she’s worked with me these past three and a half years, four years or whatever this is. And so she knows me, she knows my style, she knows how I move, how I operate as a leader. I knew going into this conversation that I had to be very delicate about how I approached it, because this person poured into me for three and a half some odd years expecting me to succeed her. And now I’m about to tell her that I don’t want to move in that direction and respectfully decline to move forward.

And so we have the conversation, I walked through it delicately, we had mutual respect for each other, and I was able to compassionately, and with empathy, and with all professionalism express to her that thank you for everything that you’ve done to prepare me for this opportunity, but I have something else in mind for myself. And she says, well, she had to take a moment to receive that first part of it. Oh, oh, you’re not going to move forward. No. And why, what is it? What are you thinking? I’m like, I want to move in this direction of leadership and employee development, ultimately coaching. And that is where my passion and my purpose resides. And to her credit, she says, how can I help you?

Melyssa Barrett:  Nice.

Sheryl Brinkley:  As I said, well, I’m still figuring it out. But right now, applying for tuition reimbursement, and I don’t think they’re going to approve it because it doesn’t really fit the criteria, so I might need to phone a friend. I might have to ask you to help me with a, what do you call it? Take the next step to rebut it, or ask some sort of-

Melyssa Barrett:  Exception.

Sheryl Brinkley:  An exception to it, right?

Melyssa Barrett: Yeah.

Sheryl Brinkley:  And so I said to her that, but what I’m going to do immediately is I’m going to go talk to the director, her boss, and I’m going to let him know what my decision is because it needs to come from me. Now she’s about to retire. She didn’t announce retirement now.

Melyssa Barrett:  Right.

Sheryl Brinkley:  I’m still going to be here working in his organization, okay. And everybody’s thinking, I’m applying for this job, I’m going to take this job. And namely him too. I need to tell him that I’m not going to step up into that or apply for it. And so I had the conversation with him too. And it was a very interesting conversation because he’s a no nonsense kind of person. And so I’m like Steve, I’m not going to respectfully apply for this position. And he’s like, well, why not? And I’m like, well, I want to go back to school, Steve and I want to get this certification.

He’s says, well, why can’t you do both? I’m like, oh no, no, no, no, no. I said, because if I take this job and go to school and then I’ll have to hire somebody to replace me, that’s a lot, so I respectfully want to retain and maintain where I am, go back to school, and I would love to help support you in finding the successor for my manager. And would you allow me to work on the interview panel for that? And he says, oh, absolutely. And he also said, how can I help you?

Melyssa Barrett:  I love it.

Sheryl Brinkley:  And so my thing is that when you’re a performer, and you’re getting it done, and people see your walk, and you’re leading by example, and you’re a role model in your role, and you strive to be not perfect, but you’re doing the best that you can, you learn as you go and you improve, leaders around you will support you. They will support you. Now, I don’t think that is necessarily has to do with my ethnicity. I’m an African American woman, but I’ve been blessed, to be in positions where I have walked the path and let me tell you, I was I think the only African American person in the department, okay. And I had challenges with other leaders in that department, but we handled it with grace and with professionalism.

And I don’t think that goes unnoticed, right? But when your leader says, how can I help you? That’s your opportunity to express this is what my needs are, this is where I’m trying to go. And he made inroads for me to get exposure to his boss.

Melyssa Barrett:  Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Sheryl Brinkley:  And because he knew that his boss had some things that he wanted to do and move the organization in direction. And he put me on, he put me on stage with his boss. And so that means if somebody’s going to give you an opportunity and put you on stage. When your boss is going to put you on, you’ve got to show up because you’re not only representing yourself, you’re representing your leader too. And there’s high stakes involved, but it’s all good if you are doing your part. If your leadership has confidence in you, it gives you a different level of empowerment.

Melyssa Barrett:  Yeah.

Sheryl Brinkley:  Like I can really do this. I can really do this.

Melyssa Barrett:  Yes. Oh gosh. I mean, and so much in what you just said, I mean, from gratitude, to combining your passion and purpose, being able to speak up, I could go on and on. There was a lot of nuggets in there for folks that are navigating their careers, so if we pivot a little bit to really talk about senior leaders as mentors and sponsors, because I think in some cases you find yourself, you navigate your career and then you find yourself in this leadership role and all of a sudden you have to mentor other people and I’ll just say it nicely, some people don’t really know how to do that, even as a senior leader.

Sheryl Brinkley:  All right now, all right, we’re going to bless their hearts.

Melyssa Barrett:  I’m trying to be nice.

Sheryl Brinkley:  Just me just say leaders find their way into these seats in different kinds of ways. Sometimes individuals or professionals are told that in order to grow, you’ve got to be a leader, okay. In order to really have career success, you have to be a leader. And so people embrace that and they apply for these jobs and then they get into these roles, but not everybody’s gifted in people leadership, okay?

Melyssa Barrett:  Say that.

Sheryl Brinkley:  You can have technical experts who they’re very, very talented with technical things but people leadership is not their gift. And I work with emerging talent, I have responsibility for talent pipeline in my organization. And so what I tell brand new, right out of college fresh people is, find your way. And if you know that people is not your gig, then don’t be a people leader. That’s fine. There’s other ways of growing your career besides being a people leader, so having said that. To your point, there are people that are sitting in seats that people leadership is not their acumen, that’s not their strength. And it is a muscle that can be developed and they can grow on if they choose to. But you said sometimes these people are not effective as mentors. Now here is my position on mentorship, I believe in organic mentoring.

Melyssa Barrett:  Okay.

Sheryl Brinkley:  And what I mean by that is, at my company and a lot of corporate types of companies, they typically have a formal mentoring process and I liken it to if you’ve ever been in college and you’ve gone to drop in counseling, or listen, if you’ve been on match.com, if you’ve ever done online dating, you fill out a profile, they fill out a profile, right. And then you try to get in a conversation with an individual and you don’t always have chemistry fit. And what happens is in the formal program you don’t always get what you want to get out of it as a mentee because this person’s found themselves ghosting you. They’re not available. You’re trying to schedule, get on the calendar and they’re nowhere to be found, and they’re so busy, but why did you sign up to be a mentor then if you are not going to be available, I don’t know.

But anyway, so I believe in organic mentoring and that to me means you look across the organization, you see leaders doing their thing, right? They’re leading different kind of meetings or you’ve come across their path in some form or fashion. They don’t have to be in your immediate organization. But someone that you admire, someone you feel like affinity to that you may, and this is pre-COVID of course, because I’m sure we’d have to, what does this look like in a COVID world? Now that’s a whole nother conversation, but pre-COVID when everybody was in the office and you’re mingling and you’re in the break room or you’re passing in the hallway and you’re having this kind of informal chemistry connection with them. I feel like you can ask said person, Hey, I really admire you, would you mind being my mentor? And I feel like most people are very flattered by that. And if they’re feeling you and they’ve got capacity like that, I believe they say yes.

And that’s how I found my mentors in the organization over the years. And you don’t need to have just one, you can have multiple, but make sure that you have something in mind that you want to work on with this individual because it is the mentees responsibility to, what is my agenda? What is it that I feel like this person can help me with? Get on and get off with that, with that person. And it is for a limited period of time. It’s not an indefinite kind of thing. It needs to be able to be valuable for an extended period of time and make sure you deliver on everything that they give you to do, or they’ve asked you to do, or they’ve advised you to do. There’s nothing worse than giving someone advice and then they don’t take it right? Now you’re wasting my time. Now you’re wasting my time, so it’s like, okay, now I’m not going to be as liable or generous with my giving if I know that you’re not going to take advantage of what I’m offering you.

Melyssa Barrett:  Right.

Sheryl Brinkley:  That’s my approach, okay. I feel like that’s most successful because you and this person have a chemistry check already. We’ve already have that and we can build on that relationship if you will, and get some value out of that. And you get what you want to get as far as growing your career.

Melyssa Barrett:  Yeah. That’s awesome. Then just to highlight, because I think one of the things that we didn’t hear in your bio is that you were awarded the President’s Diversity and Inclusion Champion Award. I think, it was just before COVID if I remember correctly.

Sheryl Brinkley:  That’s correct. Yeah.

Melyssa Barrett:  Maybe you can give us some nuggets on what things worked well when, I mean, obviously you were doing lots of things related to diversity and inclusion. What are some things that work well? What are some things that do not work well? I know some people have worked at companies who are focused on providing resources and now it seems post George Floyd, post Buffalo, post all of these things are still happening in the community and in different states related to shootings, and just trauma. I think there have been a lot of companies that are also, they have good intentions, but they are maybe growing impatient with, it’s a marathon, right? Not a sprint when you’re talking about diversity and inclusion. Just wondering if you can offer any thoughts about things that tended to work well within the organizations you were working with and some success stories maybe?

Sheryl Brinkley:  There’s a lot in that Melyssa, there was no silver bullet or magic wand post George Floyd for this, in the middle of a pandemic or. I mean, we’re still navigating that space and it’s taken, I don’t know how many years of corporate life to get to where we are now. We should not expect that we’re going to have this solved in a year or two. This is ongoing, and I feel like companies have to be patient with their trajectory and growth on this, but intentionality has to be a part of it. And so as they craft or create their DNI processes and/or strategies, initiatives year over year to continue to move the needle forward, they have to be intentional about where they’re trying to go with that. And listen, if you don’t have the expertise, find it, bring it in. Our company did that, our company hired another company to come in and train our leadership. First of all, we looked for leaders who wanted to be in on this type of change, okay.

Melyssa Barrett:  Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Sheryl Brinkley:  Work with the willing, right? Those who really feel moved in that direction to try to lead this type of change. And work with them to train the trainer if you will, to give them talking points, to give them context, to give them things that they can be asking of their immediate organizations, to have these difficult conversations, and to support their employee base. When we have these kinds of things that impact segments of your employee populations. And so whenever there are incidents like George Floyd, or recently with the shooting that has occurred, that there’s a recognition that this impacts those groups of affinity when these kinds of things happen and not to be insensitive about it, there’s an opportunity for a conversation or opportunity to reach out to your employees who may fit that demographic and check in on them.

We all need to know that someone cares and we spend more time at work than we do with our families at home, so work is family. It’s a work family and we should-

Melyssa Barrett:  And now it’s both.

Sheryl Brinkley:  And we should care about each other like a family. Listen, whether you want to admit it or not. If something happens to your team member, it happens to you. I had direct reports who lost family members, one lost her mother first and then lost her father. And when death happens or cancer diagnosis happens in your group, everybody feels that. Now with COVID listen, somebody gets COVID we’re all concerned like, oh, okay. We have vaccines and things now, but initially we did not and so that was serious.

Melyssa Barrett:  Yeah.

Sheryl Brinkley:  This is life or death. And so when we have incidents that happen in our world, that touch on the lives of our team members, we need to show that we care. Now you don’t have to be perfect, you don’t have to have all the answers, but can you show us some humanity?

Melyssa Barrett:  Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Sheryl Brinkley:  Humanity is all that’s required, empathy, compassion, and humanity, and listening. That’s it, so it’s just a walk that needs to continue. And as long as we understand that there’s no one and done with here and we’re not expecting perfection, we just expect you to see us. You see me? Do I look like I need support and help? That goes a long way with people, whether it’s something that happens in a community of color, whether it happens with me having cancer, whether it happens where I’ve lost someone in my family, show up like you care, that’s it.

Melyssa Barrett:  Yeah. Well, and if we could all start with everyone showing up like they care, then maybe people would feel like they belong and are included, right.

Sheryl Brinkley:  That’s right.

Melyssa Barrett:  That empathy is so understated. This has been such a wonderful conversation, it’s hard to believe that it’s, and the hour flew by.

Sheryl Brinkley:  It flew by.

Melyssa Barrett:  I just want to thank you for joining me. If you wouldn’t mind letting people know how they can get a hold of you or how they can tap into you as a coach, please let people know how to reach you.

Sheryl Brinkley:  Listen, it’s my privilege to follow up with anyone who’s interested and that believe that I can be of service, because that’s the first thing and can reach me at itmcoachingnextlevel.com and I’m happy to start a conversation with you to see how we can support you. And I’m all linked in, so heck you can invite me to connect with you and start a conversation that way, so we make it very easy, we make it very easy for you to connect with us.

Melyssa Barrett:  Awesome. Well, thank you so much Sheryl for being here, you have a wealth of information. And it’s always such a pleasure to talk to people that are making a difference, not only in their profession, but in the world we live in. When you’re talking about your passion and profession really colliding, Sheryl does that in every way in everyone she touches, so I just appreciate you and I’m so grateful that you have come on to share your story and your life, and we just wish you the best as you continue in your own career life.

Sheryl Brinkley:  Thank you, Melyssa. And thanks for this wonderful opportunity and I’m happy to come back and join you again at another opportunity as well.

Melyssa Barrett:  All right. I might take you up on that.

Sheryl Brinkley:  Thank you.

Melyssa Barrett:  Awesome. Thanks so much for being here.

Sheryl Brinkley:  My pleasure.

Melyssa Barrett:  Thanks for joining me on The Jali Podcast. Please subscribe, so you won’t miss an episode. See you next week.