There's a lot of energy in sports put into the idea of the lineage of where a coach previously worked as they look for a new job or as they achieve success. It's called the "coaching tree." Usually you see a head coach (often in football since they have the largest coaching staffs) who can trace their career back to being some graduate assistant for a legendary leader. For the greatest coaches, the people that work on their staffs throughout their careers often go onto be head coaches themselves, and hence, the coaching tree is established.
For the best coaches, the coaching tree is almost sacred--"he served on Bill Walsh's staff" or "Nick Saban's staff" gives one a headstart and an image of being part of a winning team and having learned from the master.
You get where I'm going here--it applies to us as CMO's as well. Our goal, if we're oriented the right way, is to mold an
d coach and mentor the best people working for us and then send them out like baby chicks from the nest. That may sting for us when they depart, but ultimately the halo effect we get from their success says way more about us and the leaders we hopefully have been than any reference actually can.
So if you're at the top or on your way, don't be afraid to have a conversation with your high potential employees and get them the projects, the exposure, and the opportunities that you were given to get where you are. They'll do great things for you in the short term on their way to great things for them in the long term. And when it's time (even if they think it's NOT time) don't be afraid to kick them out of the nest and send them on their way.
If you've done your job, they'll be able to fly, and you'll revel in their success.