Peeking Behind the Sponsorship Curtain

I recently attended a networking event with McKinsey & Company targeted at Women in Operations. During which, we discussed the differences between mentorship and sponsorship, types of mentorship, and the do’s/don’ts in maintaining a successful mentor network. One bit of perspective I found many of the attendees grab onto is hearing what it’s like being a sponsor. As many have come to know, sponsorship differs from mentorship in that one does not actively seek out a sponsor.  Sponsorship is that elusive connection working ‘behind the scenes’ to nurture and foster careers.  A sponsor represents you and your work during advancement and role placement discussions.  It’s not always formal, but they in essence serve you and help ensure the success of your career, oftentimes unbeknownst to you.  Bottomline, they are critical to ensure you and your work have a firm seat at the table.

During the discussion, I shared perspective from the other side of the coin having now been a sponsor of several. I shared how I go about choosing who to sponsor, notably what attributes stand out from the rest and truly motivate me to become a sponsor.  As a thought leader and business motivational speaker, I’m now sharing this perspective widely in hopes of others finding value in it:

As a business motivational speaker, I’m now sharing this perspective widely in hopes of others finding value.

1. Rock Solid Capability: When I sponsor someone I am putting my own reputation on the line. It is important that whomever I stand behind I’m certain has the capability to be successful in whatever I may be supporting them in.

  • My Two Cent Pointer: Deliver what is asked of you with excellence. Maintain consistency in your excellence. A track record of strong contributions speaks volumes!

2. Recent Accomplishments and Failures Known: Honestly, this is typically how a potential sponsee falls on my radar. I see a well prepared and executed presentation or hear of a recent accomplishment and become intrigued. And honestly, the pitfalls garner my attention just as readily, notably for those individuals that exhibit resilience and willingness to acknowledge failure and learn from it moving forward.  I am inspired by those who learn from shortfalls and take it upon themselves to share lessons learned with their organizations.

  • My Two Cent Pointer: When you’re excited about something, share it. If you’ve given a rock star presentation to your leadership, send out the deck electronically and copy other members of leadership who may not have been in attendance but may find value in the content. Know your leadership community and make an effort to ensure a few outside of your direct line of management are aware of what you’re doing and how you’re contributing. If you fail, embrace it and effectively communicate what you learned. Succinctly summarize the lessons learned and share them widely. Be sure to use your mentor network to cultivate the message ensuring a positive impact. Turn your failure into a future organizational success!

3. Career Aspirations Communicated: It’s important I’m aware of where the individual would like to progress in their career so I know for which roles/opportunities to advocate. I typically either find this information out directly from the individual or by speaking with their line management once I’m interested in sponsoring.

  • My Two Cent Pointer: Ensure your manager and mentor network knows what future career opportunities are on your radar. Or where your interests lie.  For that matter, express what you’re not so excited by as well.  You may not have full clarity of exactly the role you’re looking for next, but expressing what you’re curious about is important to ensuring the people working to enable your success are in-tune and informed.

About Cassandra

Cassandra Worthy inspires world-class business leaders to thrive in today’s dynamic workplace through sharing her own stories of tragedy and triumph.

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