Expert Advice for Growing an Empowering Career at a Great Company — From a VP of Talent Development

Sponsored by Capital Group

Michelle Thompson

Photo courtesy of Capital Group.

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Fairygodboss
April 13, 2024 at 3:15PM UTC

Michelle Thompson, Vice President of Talent Development at Capital Group, has been in the Learning and Development space for more than 25 years. “It’s my passion; I can’t imagine doing anything else,” she tells us.

Throughout her eight years at Capital Group, Thompson has consistently focused on talent development; however, that doesn’t mean her work hasn’t evolved! “My job has included skill development for Technology and Investment Operations (which is Capital Group’s approach to career development), implementing new learning technology, rethinking how we approach performance management and, now, leadership development,” shares Thompson. “I love the ongoing variety, the challenges that I’m entrusted with and the many different people across the organization with whom I get to collaborate.”

For women looking to develop their careers, Thompson shares that, “you should never wait on anybody else. If you’re interested, make it happen. Proactively seek information that you’d like to know more about, interview others who do something you’re interested in, seek out a mentor who knows your strengths and how they can be leveraged, look into tuition reimbursement and more. To me, there is never an excuse that somebody else isn’t developing you. Could it be better? Yes, but don’t use that as an excuse. There is a lot you can do on your own — be empowered!”

Thompson and her fellow TD colleagues focus on three areas every day and in everything they do: empowering associates to learn and grow, elevating leadership capabilities and optimizing teams.

Photo courtesy of Capital Group.

Let’s take a closer look at Thompson’s advice for growing an empowering career, making room for others, how she helps do both and more! 

Top advice for growing a career, juggling work and life and uplifting others.

What advice do you have for women who want to take on more responsibility at work?

Women often talk themselves out of something before it’s even a reality. I always say, “You don’t have a decision to make yet. Explore that new role, tell others what you’re interested in and share your value and passion.”

When you begin to seek out more responsibility, it can take time. However, remember that you don’t have a decision to make until the opportunity is offered to you — so don’t limit yourself too soon. If now isn’t the time for you, that’s okay, too. It’s okay to say, “I’m good for now. I’m going to focus on being great where I am.” I call this, “stay and be great” — which is an exceptionally strong place to build from until you’re ready for change.

What about tips for working moms who are trying to juggle it all? 

When I was pregnant, my colleague told me that you need to give yourself grace; you can’t be all things each and every day. Some days, I will be the best mom. The next day, I may be the best employee or the best spouse. And, the following day, I may focus on myself. 

The key is to look across time instead of every day to see if you have a balanced life.

Photo courtesy of Capital Group.

Finally, can you share some advice on how you make room for developing your own career? Especially as someone with a career focused on developing others.

Even if I’m facilitating and leading a session on leadership, there’s always something I learn, and I find myself reflecting on what I can improve. In leadership, it’s never, “check the box, I’ve arrived.” I take this view with my team, too. We constantly think about the future of leadership development at Capital Group by opening our minds to other opportunities.

I love to take a broad view. I subscribe to newsletters, I follow a lot of thought leaders and I like to read a little bit of everything. The key is to do this regularly and stay abreast of what’s occurring in your profession.

I take advantage of everything Capital Group offers. We’ve been focusing a lot on diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I). We’ve had the most amazing speakers: Amy Edmondson on psychological safety, Dr. Derald Wing Sue on microaggressions, Ibram X. Kendi on antiracism, etc. Whenever our employee resource groups are bringing in speakers, I try to engage in the live sessions or listen to recordings.

How Capital Group supports growth (including an innovative leadership program for women!).

What are some of the tools and resources that Capital Group provides to all associates? 

We focus on holistic development at Capital Group — this means providing a wide variety of tools and resources. This includes a robust platform with thousands and thousands of on-demand resources, robust leadership development programs for all levels, mentoring programs to learn from others at Capital Group, onboarding, Learning and Development teams focused on specific technical skills and an internal talent marketplace that will launch in 2023 to proactively push open roles, rotations and gigs to associates. In addition, associates have their leaders as a resource — for everyday coaching, feedback, advice on their career and more.

As an example, can you share how Capital Group has helped you evolve your own leadership style?

Capital Group’s focus on DE&I has made me a better leader. While I’m very open and love learning about other people’s differences, it’s not a space I had a lot of knowledge in. Candidly, I grew up in Wyoming, which is a very homogenous culture. My undergrad degree is in psychology; I have always loved learning about other people, what’s unique about them and what drives them. With our emphasis on belonging at Capital Group, we talk to associates about more things than just work. This has really pushed me to have empathy and see other points of view.

I have become a better leader since joining Capital Group because they’ve pushed me to think more broadly about the outcome of what we’re doing. It’s not just that we focus on development, it’s the why. What do we really want, and what are we trying to achieve? We want associate engagement. One of our goals is to increase our internal mobility, and we are trying to ensure that our associates truly feel they can grow here. Capital Group really had me think through the lens of why in a strategic way.

I also appreciate that I’ve been given these opportunities to try new things in a really supportive way. The collaboration from the leadership and associates around me hasn’t let me fail. These are all different ways that I’ve become a better leader at Capital Group.

Speaking of growing leadership skills, could you tell us more about the Women Leading Capital program?

Our intent with Women Leading Capital (WLC) is to accelerate the development of female leaders. This is where Capital Group focuses on equity versus equality. WLC is a nomination program designed to grow high-potential manager and senior manager women to strengthen and diversify our leadership pipeline.

WLC is a six-month program that guides women leaders through highly interactive virtual sessions led by a Harvard moderator, two in-person sessions and an opportunity to give back to the community. It provides participants with a deeply personalized experience, including: 

  • A formal 360 feedback process.

  • The opportunity to engage with Harvard coaches and Capital Group business advocates.

  • The ability to discuss leadership content in small groups to deepen your knowledge.

  • Exposure to Capital Group business leaders.

We know that there are fewer women in leadership as we go up levels in the organization — and we do not accept that. Therefore, we need to expedite their development. We need to focus on women to give them extra coaching with an intense learning experience. 

Photo courtesy of Capital Group.

The stories coming out of the program give me goosebumps. I can’t take credit for creating it, but this can be a very life-changing experience. The program started in 2018, and, since then, over 200 high-potential women have completed the program globally. We track the numbers of promotion, retention and mobility rates. When we analyze the outcomes, there is significant added value for our female colleagues who complete the program. 



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