More Than Just a Friend & Ally

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More Than Just a Friend & Ally
Dan Blackburn
Webinar: Dec. 14, 2022

Sponsorship to key high performers is necessary for advancement. Setting up a well-established internal organization that fosters, nurtures, and drives mentorship and sponsorship is necessary for advancement. This environment also creates a communal valuable location for feedback and learning sessions which drive value. Dan shares insights into a successful organization in hopes to inspire you all to join your internal sponsorship or start one if there isn’t one established yet. A community starts with two and more importantly, you.

“Companies in the top 25% for gender diversity on their executive teams are 25% more likely to have above-average profitability” – Baroness Berridge

What is your why? A question pulled from a Ted Talk by Simon Sinek and the question that was the foundation of Dan’s presentation. “Am I the right person for this discussion? What can I offer you that you already don’t know?” Blackburn begins, “To be honest, nothing.” Dan’s main goal of his Lunch & Learn was to inspire and motivate people based on the success of programs and organizations like Women of Flexo.

“The success of any group, any organization, is based on the people; their vision, the support, and the growth of their members.”

                  How does a good organization become great? For example, if a company’s strategy is to become more efficient, how do they get there? Tasks that build projects, projects that build strategy, strategy that changes the culture. Great leaders get them there. Great leaders push and drive that strategy. But the new question is, how do you find those great leaders?
                  One thing Dan is proud of at Kimberly-Clark is how open and responsive they are to new ideas or employee needs. Similar to FTA’s Women of Flexo, KC has the Women’s Inclusion Network, or WIN, an employee resource group for women in their industry to come together and create space for growth and improvement. Dan gets involved where he can and talks about an email sent out by WIN that discussed the topic of imposter syndrome, something that many women struggle with.
               “It was called The Upside of Imposter Syndrome and they broke it down and gave us questions that sparked discussion and reflection. It helped me to understand it better even if I didn’t relate to everything in that email.” Dan recalled, empathizing with the topic.
                Which brought him to his next point: great leaders are empathetic and can relate to their team. They’re proactive, open to discussions, and not afraid of change. “An empathetic leader can listen to their team rather than fix, solve, or dictate, thus preparing them for success.” – Sandeep Kashyap
                  Dan then goes on to discuss how to find these great leaders, “If you’re a male watching this and you’re in a leadership position, I greatly encourage you to help facilitate fellow colleagues to start an influential group such as Women of Flexo and you will find great leaders.”
                  Creating the space and environment to grow, seek, flourish, and find great leaders is key, and organizations like Women’s Inclusion Network and Women of Flexo provide that. “Start a women of whatever in your own organization!” Dan encourages, “Start your own local group if there isn’t one already.” Openness and willingness to speak out and listen is what brings change to a company’s culture. Leaders and allies not only listen, they take action.

                  Post-presentation, Dan opened up the floor for questions. He had mentioned having a female mentor and was asked if he had any reservations about that. “Not at all! Actually studies have shown that female mentors are more successful than male mentors. Which makes sense when you think about who is more empathetic.”
                  Dan was then asked, what are some practical steps for someone looking to start a group like WIN or WoF or for someone looking for a mentor? It can be hard to put yourself out there! “Start up a meeting with your leadership. Set up a quick meeting over lunch or coffee to talk about it. And if they refuse that conversation, then you don’t want to be involved with that kind of person anyways.”
                   Mentioned time and again throughout his presentation, leaders are open to discussion and new ideas and encourage the growth of their employees and colleagues. So start up a conversation and build from there! That first step will open doors for more opportunities. And remember: leaders are more than just a friend and ally.

Dan is a senior engineer at Kimberly-Clark Corporation on the R&D Packaging team as the Global Graphics Leader. He graduated with a bachelor’s of science degree from Clemson University’s packaging science program and worked for three material converting supplier companies in various technical roles prior to KC. He is a board member, presenter, level 3 implementation specialist and forum session chair for the FTA.


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