Language selection


EXecuTALK: The Executive Sponsor: Making Room for New Voices (INC1-V16)


This event recording features a panel discussion with public service executives on executive sponsorship and how it has positively impacted their careers.

Duration: 00:43:19
Published: February 22, 2021
Type: Video

Event: EXecuTALK: The Executive Sponsor: Making Room for New Voices

Now playing

EXecuTALK: The Executive Sponsor: Making Room for New Voices



Transcript: EXecuTALK: The Executive Sponsor: Making Room for New Voices

[In the upper left corner of a black background, a logo features the red stripes and maple leaf of the Canadian flag next to letters in white.]

Canadian School of Public Service / École de la fonction publique du Canada

[In the center of the screen two capital letters appear in red, surrounded by a circle. Green and red lines resembling electrical interference streak through it.

The EX logo is replaced by a computer animation showing high-tech machinery with moving silver and red beams over a black background. They rotate in space, mechanically displaying panels with red and black lettering.]

Leadership Innovation
Engagement Discussion / Education Passion

[The panels are replaced by the series title in red letters.]

ENTRE cadres

[The title fades out, replaced by a video-conferencing window displaying four women. In the bottom left is the moderator. A text box identifies her as Nathalie Laviades Jodouin. She has medium-brown skin, shoulder-length dark curly hair, and glasses. In the background are a potted plant and two colourful paintings of buildings. She smiles warmly, looking slightly above us.]

Nathalie Laviades Jodouin (NLJ): Good day, everyone, and a virtual welcome to the Canada School of Public Service. My name is Nathalie Laviades Jodouin. I'm the Director General responsible for learning on respectful and inclusive workplaces here at the School. I am really pleased to be with you today. I would also like to welcome all the participants who have joined today and to let you know that this event will be bilingual.

[A purple box pops in at the bottom left corner, with text identifying the speaker.]

Nathalie Laviades Jodouin
Canada School of Public Service

Nathalie Laviades Jodouin
École de la fonction publique du Canada

Before we begin, I'd like to acknowledge that the land by which many of us are viewing this event is the unceded territory of the Anishinaabeg Algonquin People. Some of you today may be joining us from various parts of the country, and I therefore encourage you to take a moment to recognize and acknowledge the territory you're occupying.

[The purple box fades out.]

Before we continue, just a few housekeeping items to consider: the first included in the reminder email that you were sent, a learning journal—you were sent a learning journal for this event. There is space for taking notes during the event and a place to write down concrete action items that you will engage in after this EXecuTALK based on what you've heard from our esteemed speakers. If you haven't opened that yet, I invite you to take a moment to do so now.

Please note that because of the bandwidth, it is possible that the panelists lose the connection and disappear from the screen. So, if this happens, please let the system reconnect. Throughout today's session, we will be pleased to take questions from participants, and in doing so, we will ask that you submit them by pressing the icon button with the person raising their hand, which is located in the top right-hand corner of your screen. So now, without further ado, I'm pleased to introduce today's EXecuTALK entitled "The Executive Sponsor: Making Room for New Voices." This event is especially timely, given the mention of sponsorship in the Clerk's recent call to action on anti-racism, equity and inclusion.

So now, I'd really like to introduce to you our guests for today. First, I would like to introduce Paula Folkes-Dallaire, who is the Director General of Public Services and Procurement Canada. Thank you Paula for joining us this afternoon all the way from the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C.

[Paula's video window is in the bottom right. She is a Black woman with wavy hair. She wears a long, dangling necklace. Behind her are three bookshelves. Paula looks off to the left.]

I'd also like to welcome Gail Johnson, who is the Chief Human Resources Officer at the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Thank you for joining us today, Gail.

[In the top left is Gail, a Black woman with straight hair, wearing a red blazer. Behind her, a scenic painting hangs on the turquoise wall. She smiles.]

Gail Johnson (GJ): Good afternoon. Happy to be here.

NLJ: Lastly, I would like to welcome Caroline Xavier, Associate Deputy Minister, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. Thank you very much, Caroline, for joining us today. I know that you have a very busy schedule.

[Caroline's window is in the top right. She has light brown skin with straight black hair and glasses. She wears a pink and black scarf. In the background are two family photos hanging on the wall, a table with papers on it, and red curtains. Caroline smiles.]

Caroline Xavier (CX): Hello! Hello! Thank you. I am very pleased to join you.

NLJ: So last month, the School ran an event around allyship and what it means for executives to be allies to racialized groups. Today, the focus now turns to sponsorship, and while the title mentions creating room for new voices, it's really about hearing from voices who have historically been excluded. So, Paula, let's get right to it and we're going to start with you, and my question is for you to start by defining what sponsorship is.

[Text in the bottom left corner of Paula's window reads "PSPC Washington connecting to audio." It changed to "connected." Paula looks forward, smiling.]

Paula Folkes-Dallaire (PF): Hi, everyone. Sorry about that. There were some technical difficulties, and I could not hear you, Natalie, so I missed my territorial acknowledgement. First, I just like to honour and acknowledge that I am on the traditional territorial lands of the Powhatan Confederacy who speak in Algonquian language and whose land stretched north to Washington, D.C. and Maryland, east to Chesapeake Bay and south to North Carolina.

[Paula's window fills the screen. A purple box pops in at the bottom left corner, with text identifying her.]

Paula Folkes-Dallaire
Public Services and Procurement Canada

Paula Folkes-Dallaire
Services publics et Approvisionnement Canada

First, I'll talk a little bit about allyship because I think that both mentorship and sponsorship are on the continuum of what it means to be an ally. Allies are people who are willing to align themselves with racialized and marginalized groups and to use their voices to make room for diverse voices, to use their privilege to make space at the table for Black people, Indigenous People and persons of colour, whom we sometimes collectively refer to as racialized persons.

[The purple box fades out.]

Allies recognize that racism exists and that individual and systemic racism is a pervasive problem in Canadian society. They are ready to have difficult conversations and to feel uncomfortable if necessary to achieve greater self-awareness and better intercultural understanding. I find that allies are ready to give a voice to people that we don't usually hear in our work environment. They use their privileged position to create a place at the table for marginalized individuals who, for a long time, have been underrepresented at all levels of the public service and especially at the decision-making table. Lastly, I would say that allies actively listen to other peoples' experiences; they demonstrate empathy and recognize that everyone has lived different experiences. What is important is to recognize these differences.
So now about mentorship. I think mentors are people who can give others guidance and advice on various work- and career-related matters like work-life balance, returning to work after an absence, or providing valuable insights on career next steps, perhaps giving advice on which opportunities would provide depth and breadth to somebody whose work experiences, or what stretch assignment might help someone develop new skills or attain new competencies. They can provide an objective perspective on a mentored person's current work situation and help them identify options and choices, or simply offer a listening ear to help them think things through. But sponsorship and sponsors go well beyond that. Sponsors take active steps to open doors, break down barriers, and challenge and dismantle the status quo to make those opportunities actually happen for people more marginalized than themselves.

Sponsors know that without direct, bold action on their part, Black people, Indigenous People, persons of colour and those who are differently abled will remain at risk of being overlooked, underrepresented, unheard and excluded. And so, as executive allies, we can shatter glass ceilings, dedicate resources to combat racism and discrimination in our workplaces, and be a powerful catalyst for change with the decisions that we make every day, whether it be staffing, recruitment, performance and talent management, organizational design and so much more. I truly believe that we hold in our hands the opportunity to make a difference through sponsorship in the careers of so many people with positive impacts that will really last generations.

[The other speakers' windows reappear. Nathalie smiles.]

NLJ: Thank you very much, Paula. Gail, as a head of HR, and now that Paula's taken a moment to define what we mean by sponsorship, particularly as it differentiates between mentorship—as a head of HR, what advice or direction would you give to executives on how or where to start sponsoring employees and also whether or not the executive should always take the lead?

GJ: Thank you for your question, Nathalie. So first, I'd like to start by saying that this is an important conversation. I think we can all agree that having a more diverse and inclusive public service means better policies, better service delivery, a more resilient workforce, and enhanced public trust. Sponsorship of employees from equity-seeking groups is one mechanism that can help to achieve diversity and inclusion. As one thinks about sponsorship, you need to be committed to taking on the role and determining what it is that you will bring to the table in the sponsorship relationship...

[Gail's window fills the screen.]

...understand the objectives they were trying to achieve, ensure your organization is aware of what you're on about and is on board and is willing to help you open doors for others. In this context, we're speaking about sponsorship of Black, Indigenous or people of colour, so you should identify who you think has potential to advance from that segment. Reach out to the intended sponsee to determine if sponsorship is something they are interested in. If the person is game, have discussions on their career aspirations, get a sense of areas where they may require more development and start to build a trusting relationship. Identify if there are professional development programs that would be beneficial.

[The other speakers' windows reappear.]

Be on the lookout for opportunities that would assist and also introduce the person to a broader cross-section of people such as corporate initiatives, short-term assignments, etc. It's important to speak about the person at meetings, mention their name, talk about them, what they bring to the table and how they can benefit others to help spread the word so people get a sense of who this person is that you're sponsoring. Take the person to meetings and other events and help them make significant connections. With respect to the question of whether the executive should take the lead, I would say yes. That does not preclude an employee from reaching out to seek sponsorship. But let's face it: many, particularly those from racialized communities or groups, may be reluctant to take that step because of their lived experiences and some of the things they've had to endure.

[Caroline and Nathalie nod.]

So I think it's incumbent upon the executives to be open if somebody approaches them and consider how the relationship may work. But in this context, I think it's important as an executive seeking to sponsor somebody that you take the initial step. Thanks.

[Nathalie smiles.]

NLJ: Thank you very much, Gail. Caroline, there is a question for you in the context of sponsorship. I see a lot as it relates to visibility. So, in that context, how do we reconcile the creation of space for conversation that is really open for the experiences of racialized employees without, however, giving the impression that more pressure is being put on them so that they carry the burden or become the sole bearers of their race or culture? How can all this be reconciled?

CX: Thank you,  Nathalie, for the question. This is not an easy question to answer, that's for sure.

[Caroline's window fills the screen. A purple box pops in at the bottom left corner, with text identifying her.]

Caroline Xavier
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada

Caroline Xavier
Immigration, Réfugiés et Citoyenneté Canada

Of course, racialized people are pressured or feel the pressure that you mentioned, but it's not because we feel pressure that it doesn't mean that it's nevertheless not important to share our experiences.

[The purple box fades out.]

In my opinion, it's important that safe and healthy spaces are created, especially by management, especially at the executive level, to allow conversations to take place. When a racialized person shares their experience, it's important to listen and to listen actively, and not to start being judgmental because the first step is to learn, to hear and to listen. It's important that we share our experiences because that's how we teach others about the experiences we have lived. Of course, we can understand that sharing this doesn't mean that we also have to be part of the solution. We must not be obliged to have all the answers. Of course, we have great suggestions, and there are networks—there's lots of great networks out there and we need to have these allies build together to be able to have those conversations, to build the networks of support. You need that, especially when you're going through some of the experiences that are being lived by racialized Canadians.

[The other speakers' windows appear.]

So, it's important, for example, that the people who listen to the experiences can understand that there are sometimes solutions among what has been experiences, but that doesn't mean that the answers must all only come from the community.

[Nathalie nods.]

But for me, the most important part is truly trying to build that trust.

[Paula nods.]

And if we look at some of the past public service employee surveys, unfortunately, trust with senior management or executives is not high on the list depending on which department you're in, of course. But, it's important to continue to build and improve the trust aspect.

[Caroline's window fills the screen.]

And how does trust get built? It's by people listening to each other, recognizing that we all have diverse views. And as Gail said in her opening comments, when she was answering a question: how important it is that we recognize inclusion and representation and being critical to doing better in the policy development and the service delivery for Canadians. Isn't that the reason why we're all public servants at the end? For me, the answer is not obvious. It's not easy, but that doesn't mean that we should not continue the conversations and it's important that we let them happen and that people have an opportunity to share their experiences because these are very powerful experiences that help others who don't live these experiences better understand them. And it's part of that educational element, but it can't be only on the backs of the communities. It really has to be an all-in effort, a call to action, as the Clerk stated.

[The other speakers' windows reappear. Nathalie smiles.]

NLJ: Super. Thank you very much, Caroline. Paula, you've defined sponsorship. It would be great to hear from you around what it looks like in practice and to let us know if you've got examples to share, characteristics of the sponsors you've met or come across. Over to you.

PF: Well, those are great questions, Nathalie, thank you very much. You know, I see sponsorship as a type of talent management.

[Paula's window fills the screen.]

directly to an EX-04 in my early years as an EX-01 and EX-02. So my sponsors were ADMs or DMs. And one thing that I observed from these sponsors is that they were very authentic, genuine, down-to-earth leaders who are truly interested in people. They were very dedicated to ensuring that talented employees, especially those who are prone to be marginalized, aren't overlooked for experiences and opportunities that could benefit both the employee and the federal government.

At a strategic organizational level, they were really great at looking across the organization, at the skills and the talent that they had across their teams coming up in feeder groups and also present in various functional communities. And they dedicated a lot of personal time to ensuring that racialized individuals with talent were working on important, highly visible, high priority files while at the same time being supported in that work. They were never afraid to take corrective actions to address systemic shortcomings.

At an individual level, executive sponsors were very interested in understanding the gaps between what a racialized person is doing now versus the role that they could have in the organization, given the talent that they have and ability to take on more complexity, more responsibility and higher priority items. Then they took actions to actually close those gaps. They don't concentrate on what the employee did in the past, but on their aspirations and on what they could contribute to make a better contribution if they were given the opportunity and if they were given the necessary support. Then the sponsors followed up by creating those chances; they run selection processes aimed at correcting underrepresentation of racialized groups and make appointments from those pools.

They're not afraid to stand up for equity when a lot of folks are more comfortable talking about equality. They create boxes in their organizational charts, deploying you into positions in areas you've never done before because they know you'll be good at it even when you're not sure yourself. And also, sponsors invite you to senior management meetings to present instead of making the presentation themselves, as Gail mentioned. For several years across several ADMs, I had the opportunity to make all of my own presentations at DM-chaired executive committee meetings. Those sponsors literally made space for me at the table, usually having me sit right beside them to send a clear physical signal. "She's with me. I endorse her. She belongs." That for me is what sponsorship and allyship looks like. I remember one instance I was at a senior management meeting, which was an extended meeting, so we were out in Winnipeg and an ADM was making a presentation and the Deputy Minister got up and walked out of the room. And then a few seconds later, he's pinning me...

[Paula mimes texting.]

...and he's introducing me to an ADM in another department whom he's asking to have some mentoring time with me. So as you can see in that instance, he approached it with urgency. It was not enough to wait until the break. He had to do it right now. He had to put me in contact. So I think that sponsors also endorse racialized employees to their colleagues, as Gail has said, to help them find the right lateral moves or stretch assignments, and they share their network with you and make helpful introductions. Sometimes sponsors also know more about the system that you don't know. And so, like Gail mentioned, not only can they tell you about those leadership programs that exist that you've never heard of, they can actually nominate you for those and get you involved. They can put you in touch with potential mentors, as I mentioned, and get you access and visibility to higher-level executives. So essentially, we all know that having a DM or an ADM, or any privileged person who has that in-group belonging, part of your reference list lends a lot of credibility. So it's really important for people who belong or who have in-group membership to also say that you belong when you are racialized.

I'd also say that sponsors work really hard to achieve representation in organizations, but they work even harder about inclusion because they know that inclusion is the most important thing for team cohesion and performance. They create inclusive organizational culture and they send regular signals in the organization that normalize you. One of those signals is acting opportunities. Sponsors let you act when there's a vacancy, even in the short term. You know, I think when all your colleagues act for the boss, but you don't, it sends a message in the organization. Good sponsors will let you act without hesitation or question about whether you have young kids at home or whether you grew up in that subject matter, or if you're young or whatever. They make those opportunities available to people in their organization who could really benefit from it.

[The other speakers' windows reappear.]

So I would say don't underestimate how useful those acting assignments can be, even short-term ones of just a few days.

[Nathalie and Caroline nod.]

That's actually how I met the Deputy Minister when I first became an executive. Thank you.

NLJ: Thank you very much, Paula. That helps to really concretize what it looks like, and perhaps many who are listening are maybe reflecting on folks who they may have identified as mentors who probably acted as sponsors. So it would be interesting to see what the experience of some of the executives listening today are. So, Gail, again, as a head of HR, for this to work, what else does an organization have to do or put in place in order to make it successful?

GJ: First, I would like to tell Paula what a great experience she has had in terms of sponsorship.

[Gail's window fills the screen.]

It's excellent to hear this, it gives me faith in the system. Lucky you!

[The other speakers' windows reappear. Paula's grinning.]

What I'd say is leadership really matters when it comes to promoting a diverse and inclusive environment free of discrimination. And I say there can be no equivocation on this subject. I think leaders have to be vocal in their commitments to pursuing such an environment. It's an environment that will enable sponsorship to flourish.

Creating a safe space for candid conversation allows for dialogue where people can listen and learn from those with lived experiences. This goes a long way in cultivating an understanding of diverse perspectives and can lead to greater realization of the need for a diverse and inclusive organization. I'd say that actions are most effective when they are linked to a strong strategy and are driving to concrete outcomes.

[Nathalie nods.]

Enhancing cultural competence is key and can be done by educating employees, whether it be about unconscious bias, racism, LGBTQ2 issues, humility, just to name a few. So it's not just about putting in place initiatives, but about equipping everybody to understand, appreciate and want a more diverse and inclusive workplace. This should help to make the case for sponsorship relationships. It is important to collect the right data so that you have the evidence base to make meaningful changes and include members of equity-seeking groups in the conversations and decision-making. Hearing all voices in the organization and acting on their needs is key. It is particularly important to listen to those with lived experience inside and external to the organization.

[Caroline nods.]

Diversity and inclusion takes leadership and grassroots commitment. Human Resources processes are very susceptible to creating unintended systemic barriers. When it comes to hiring processes, the tools used to test applicants often have built-in barriers that can have a disproportionate negative impact on underrepresented groups. We saw this recently in the Public Service Commission's audit on employment equity representation in the recruitment process where we saw that for visible minorities, but most particularly for Blacks as well as Indigenous and persons with disabilities, fell down at various stages in the recruitment process. The only employment equity group that did not were women.

[Gail's window fills the screen.]

So I'd say homogeneous interview boards can lead to the selection of candidates who resemble board members. Eligibility requirements are often not bona fide requirements and can result in certain groups being unable to apply. Those in underrepresented groups may not have access to the same social networks at work where oftentimes information on opportunities and helpful resources are shared.

We need to utilize broad outreach strategies into communities where we do not traditionally do outreach. Once we bring in people from diverse backgrounds, we need to ensure we have the right conditions for them to thrive. We have to ensure diverse teams, who all have a voice and an opportunity to participate and solicit input from a diverse range of people. We have to take the time to examine the hiring processes to remove the barriers that result in unintended consequences. We have to ensure selection boards comprised of diversity in thought, as well as in representation groups. And leaders should acknowledge and celebrate diversity days, months and facilitate participation in equity networks. You have to evaluate the executive team. They need to walk the talk.

And finally, we need to be intentional about creating a space for leaders to successfully mentor and sponsor employees from underrepresented groups. So all of these, taken together, create the conditions within an organization where you can see sponsorship, mentorship and allyship thriving in the organization. Thank you.

[The other speakers' windows reappear. Nathalie smiles.]

NLJ: Thank you very much, Gail. So now I'm going to take it to another level and listening to Paula's experience, listening to what needs to be in place, as Gail mentioned organizationally for this to succeed, Caroline, as a Deputy Minister, what do you expect of your executives in this space as we look to support the DM commitments on diversity and inclusion and really take action as per the Clerk's recent call to action for all of us around equity, diversity and inclusion? What do you expect of your executives?

CX: Thanks, Nathalie. I think Gail, in particular, has given you a lot of good examples of what the conditions of success could look like in an organization.

[Nathalie nods. Caroline's window fills the screen.]

But I think to get more particular to exactly what I expect of executives, and I'd say it's probably the same of all Deputies that have a keen interest in wanting to see improvements in their departments and really wanting to be responsive to the Clerk's call to action. First, it's important that we lead with compassion and empathy. And Gail, I think, alluded a little bit to this as well in her comments. If you're doing that already, aren't you going to already be looking to want to be a more representative department or group? Have a look about when you're starting a meeting or when you're beginning a discussion on a policy or something that you're doing with regards to your mandate. Have a look at who's around the table. Does who you have around the table represent Canadians? Do you have youth? Do you have all the various age groups? Do you have all the various shades? Do you have people with disabilities? We have to ask the question to see "are we going to have diverse views if we don't have the right people at the table?" We have to ask ourselves the question.

One of the other expectations is that we expect that you will make the space, you will create the opportunities for the discussion. We know you will make mistakes as executives. We're making them as Deputies. We know this is not easy, but the risks are worth taking. And it is our duty as managers, as leaders to create the opportunities for these conversations, but more importantly, to lead towards the actions of some of the examples that Gail shared. Because we need to recognize the value of equity, diversity, and inclusion in all that we're doing. And so, really challenge you to explore the data, ask questions, see where the gaps are. The data is real. It exists. I know you may have to go look for it. You may have to dig deep in the bowels of your organization, but they exist. And so really explore it and ask questions so that you can see what it is that you may be missing in your own environment, and use it as an opportunity to demonstrate some vulnerability that you're open to learning. Because the more vulnerable you can demonstrate yourself to be, you're continuing to be able to offer a safe space for racialized Canadians to be able to share their lived experiences and to begin to trust you.

The other expectation, as directly quoted by the Clerk, is sponsor some employees. Have a look and take on some leadership in sponsoring one or two. But start with one. Just start with one. Imagine if every executive out there started with just one. Imagine it. So, not asking for you to boil the ocean, but maybe just start with that. I have to tell you, based on my own experience, similar to that of Paula's, my sponsor, who happened to be my boss—and this started for me when I was in the CS-03 becoming a CS-04 category, so way before I became an executive. But I have to say, while I was living that, I did not know I was in a sponsorship relationship. It was just a great boss who had empathy, who had compassion, who just recognized it needed to be done. Representation needed to improve. And to this day, I don't think he realized when he was doing this that he was really opening up the doors for me. So you can be the boss of one of these employees. It doesn't have to be a random person. See the potential of the people in your team or if you don't have any that represent the representation we're talking about, the inclusion we're talking about, then you may have to go outside your immediate group. But we are expecting you to do that.
We're also expecting you to check your biases, take training. Unconscious bias training as a start. It's not the only tool, but it's a great beginning. And then having these conversations like taking part in this type of EXecuTALK is another opportunity. But you have to check yourself. We always have to check ourselves. We have them. We all have them. So expect that. And I just continue to ask you to ask questions, especially with your HR practitioners, but especially with senior managers. If you're not seeing that these conversations are happening, why can't you start one yourself? The Treasury Board is standing up a mentorship plus program and many departments are participating. But if your department isn't, why not ask to be part of it? This would be another way to start.
And there is a role for the employees to play. We're not saying it's all on the executive's shoulders. An employee has to know themselves. They have to kind of understand what their strengths and areas of development are. We are not saying that everything must be in your hands, but it's important nevertheless that you take the steps to create the environment. It's up to you to do this. It's in your... It's in your duties. I'm sorry, I'm looking for the right words. But, you are responsible for creating the environment so that employees feel safe and sound. It's part of our job description and it's fundamental to being a good leader.

[The other speakers' windows reappear on the screen.]

NLJ: Thank you very much, Caroline, and if I'm hearing you correctly, regardless of where you start, inaction is just not an option.

[Caroline, Gail and Paula nod.]

I hate for this to become something that is used or misused or overused, but at the end of the day, that's what I'm hearing. There is no wrong door approach. It's moving forward and acting. And as executives, there are many tools at our disposal to be able to do that and to start where it makes sense for us.

[Caroline nods emphatically.]

So, some of the questions that are already coming in are actually about how you go about finding a sponsor and whether or not, how do you assess them for fit, and whether or not that should be more of a formal or informal relationship. I don't know, Paula, given your experience, any insights there? And then I'll also ask Gail and Caroline to weigh in.

PF: Well, sure. Thanks, Nathalie. That's an excellent question. I think much like Deputy Xavier, I didn't really know sponsorship was happening either.

[Paula's window fills the screen.]

It's not necessary to call it a sponsorship program. But, you know, I think it's a bit of a mix. I think if you have a mentor, that's a great way to have a conversation about their thoughts on who might be a good sponsor for you. I've also done cold calls. I've become a lot more, I think, bold and braver than I was in my early days before I became an executive. And if I saw an ADM who I thought would be empathetic and could offer me some advice and perhaps maybe had a vacancy in their position on their org chart, I would reach out to them and ask. Sometimes the answer was "no, I'm not interested. I have other people I'm looking after right now." And sometimes the answer was "yes, sure. Let's discuss." But I think in most cases, I will say that the sponsorship did come from above. It was somebody reaching out to me saying, "I see you. I think you have talent. And here's what we're going to do. We're going to have some conversations." And much like Deputy Xavier said, have that conversation around what the sponsorship can look like and what that individual needs for that moment.

[The other speakers' windows reappear.]

NLJ: Thank you. Gail, go ahead.

GJ: I'll jump in and say that, you know, I think Paula is right that more often than not it comes from above.

[Gail's window fills the screen.]

But I think if you are looking to find a sponsor, first of all, what I would recommend is somebody sit down and think about what it is they hope to get out of that relationship. What is it you want? What your aspirations are—understand what type of person you think would be helpful. Have a sense of your career aspirations, where you want to go, what kinds of things you think would help you to further develop, etc.

[The other speakers' windows appear.]
And then have a look out at the landscape of people, senior leaders, who you think would help you in those areas, some who might be known for doing certain things, and then somebody who you think you might have affinity with that you could actually develop a relationship with, because you do have to have that. The relationship needs to work. And so it's got to be somebody you think can help you. I think having conversations with people informally—the informal networks: they work.

[Nathalie nods as Gail continues.]
So, you know, "who's good? What would you say about this person," etc. So, getting advice from folks and then reaching out. I think it's a difficult thing to do. It can be. But, as Paula said, she got bold and brave and she went out there. And she wasn't discouraged even when she was turned down, she continued.

[Paula smiles and nods.]
Sometimes it's just sucking it in and going out there and taking a deep breath and going and asking and reaching out for help.

CX: I would just add to what Gail and Paula have said, and I think that what Gail said is really important. It's important that the person knows you because it can't just be a stranger.

[Caroline's window fills the screen.]

It can't be just a random stranger. It's important that the person have an opportunity to see you in action because they must be able to see your potential. So, this is why in my case, it was, most of the time, someone who was in my immediate environment, who was one of my bosses or who was on the Executive Committee and who was part of the Management Committee. It's not always the case, but in my case, that's what it was for some of the sponsorships that I had. And they are the ones that would see an opportunity and say, "Caroline, I think this is one you need to jump on."

[Caroline's window fills the screen. A purple box pops in at the bottom left corner, with text identifying her.]

Caroline Xavier
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada

Caroline Xavier
Immigration, Réfugiés et Citoyenneté Canada
Even when I didn't think that was something I was interested in. I have to tell you, sometimes I'd say, "Really? I don't really think that."

[The purple box fades out.]

This is where I think the comment that Paula made earlier about actings or lateral moves: big deals. Not always a vertical move has to be what you do, and a sponsor knows that. Sometimes, it will be more important to move laterally or to take an acting to develop something, to show visibility that later on will enable you to go to the next level.

[The other speakers windows' reappear. Nathalie nods.]

NLJ: Excellent, thank you very much. Another question that has come in has to do with how we keep each other as executive colleagues accountable for being in the space and taking action and actively sponsoring employees. Any thoughts on that? Anyone who is willing to jump in?

CX: I can start. I know Gail was ready to jump in, too.

[Caroline's window fills the screen.]

First of all, as we've talked about in other forums, not so much today's forum, it is important that if you're seeing behaviour that's inappropriate, we are all responsible to call it out. Right? So, the microaggressions that people are experiencing are not OK. Begin with that. We've talked about how it is important to be an anti-racist and not just say, "Oh, I don't discriminate." Do your part in just trying to even create an environment that is healthier and an environment that is more open and inclusive to welcoming everybody. That's probably a good place to start.

And then after that, to the point about, how do you kind of hold others to account—I can tell you within our department, we've now established a task force that's totally dedicated to anti-racism. We will have measures. We will have measures in the performance management agreements. But the way in which we're seeing it to hold each other for account is more about the informal accountabilities. It's not only the formal checkoffs that we're worried about. We really do want that managers are asking each other, "well, how's it going in your shop? Like, what have you done? When you're running X competition, do you have members on the board that are of a diverse community? Do you need people to be part of your board? I may know some people who might be able to be on your board to help increase your diversity and representation," things like that.

Or, I can tell you that some of the conversations we're having with our ADMs is, "OK, so we're recruiting. We've got opportunities. I'm expecting to see you to be pretty colour-brave or looking at people with disabilities." They're feeling challenged. I do feel that having the conversation, challenging each other—we have talked about having... I'll use the term competitiveness because we think of GCWCC, we put out what it is that how well we're progressing against the data. And I'm not saying we're quite there yet at IRCC, but these are the conversations we're having about how do we hold each other to account. And I can tell you that the employees are also holding us to account. So we have all staff town halls. We have EX town halls on a fairly regular basis, and people are worried about all this stuff being talked about because they're saying, "Is it all just talk? How are we going to sustain this?" The accountability really is a big part of the framework, as is highlighted in the call to action and in the DM accountabilities that the Clerk has shared with us. And so there is reporting that we're going to do, but for us, we've just recently done a survey inside the department that is really giving us a good baseline. We'll know if we've made progress if the next time the surveys run, whether or not we see progress and as we analyze the data. So, again, as I said earlier, challenge yourself, get the data. The data speaks volumes and will help you to hold yourself to account.

[The other speakers' windows reappear.]

NLJ: Great. I'm mindful of time, but if Gail or Paula want to add something to close. Go ahead, Gail.

GJ: I was just going to say, and I think Caroline said it, but I think one of the things, like informal ways probably work oftentimes better than formal ways. I do think it's important to have things in your PMA commitments, etc.

[Nathalie nods.]

But I also think just having conversations, like if you're somebody who really thinks it's important—you just talk, "Hey, you know, I'm doing this and this. And this is the outcome of it." They might want to say, "Hey, I want to get on board with that, too. That sounds important. You're making progress."

[Caroline, Nathalie, and Paula nod.]

And you talk about it at your management team meetings about what you've done in the success you've managed to achieve as a result. And then you do that and then you start the momentum going as other people want to jump on board and follow suit. So I think that's important. And then there are other things, you know, in the HR community. I'm chair of the HR, Human Resources Council and we signed a statement against racism, bias and discrimination where we talk about the types of organization...

[The others nod.]

...we want to do and we shared this with our teams, with our DMs, etc., to say like, "This is what we want to do. This is what colleagues outside of HR. Do you want to follow us on this journey?"

NLJ: Thank you so very much, and the time has flown by. It's already 2:15, which means we're going to have to reconvene all throughout 2021, and continue this dialogue, hopefully. I could be here, personally, for hours, but just mindful that folks need to get back. And I think this has been a great continuation of last month's discussion, but also the need to continue on this track.

[Caroline nods.]

So, I would like to thank you, Deputy Xavier, Gail, Paula, for being here with us today. Some of the takeaways for me are that sponsorship really is very active talent management, and that in order for that to succeed, some of the key ingredients include empathy, active listening, the need to create trusting spaces for these to take place. And as executives, we are the creators of those spaces.

[Paula and Caroline nod.]

And we need to check ourselves. We need to check our biases, continue to educate ourselves on all of these. These aren't necessarily easy conversations or discussions, but again, not acting is not an option.

[Gail, Caroline, and Paula nod.]

So, thank you very much for your insights and your perspectives on this. Thank you to all the participants who took the time to join us for today's event. I would just like to mention that the dialogue is ongoing. And on March the 12th, we are having a session that's going to be moderated by Yazmine Laroche on creating a culture of inclusion, so do join us for that as well. So, have a great afternoon and evening and thank you again for being with us. See you again, everyone.

[The participants wave.]

[The windows fade out, replaced by a black background. In the upper left corner, a logo features the red stripes and maple leaf of the Canadian flag next to letters in white.]

Canadian School of Public Service / École de la fonction publique du Canada.

[In the center of the screen two capital letters appear in red, surrounded by a circle. Green and red lines resembling electrical interference streak through it.]


[It's replaced by a computer animation showing high-tech machinery with moving silver and red beams over a black background. They rotate in space, mechanically displaying panels with red and black lettering.]

Leadership Innovation
Engagement Discussion / Education Passion

[The EX logo is replaced by the series title in red letters.]

ENTRE cadres

Related links

Date modified: