Why everyone needs sponsorship alliances to advance their careers Premium

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Whether you are a more junior team member or a senior business leader, chances are you have been, are currently, or at least have considered participating in some type of mentorship relationship, traditional or otherwise. But who among you have considered the possibility of making more strategic alliances?


Why you need sponsorship
In contrast to mentorship, sponsorship involves two-way relationships. Sponsors advocate for protégés among other senior leaders in exchange for performance and loyalty. Sponsoring a more junior colleague is also useful for gaining access to information, skills, and contacts that would otherwise be out of your reach. And, finally, sponsors need protégés to clear, unbiased and timely reports of what’s happening on the ground.

How to make the right alliances
For both protégés and sponsors, the key to making the right alliances is to “put efficacy over affinity.” Protégés should choose sponsors based on who is in the best position to get them where they want to go rather than choosing the leaders they like or admire the most: “Role models are great to have, but they may not make effective sponsors.” For sponsors, performance and loyalty are two key deliverables to look for in potential protégés. In addition, it is more strategic to choose protégés with skills and strengths that differ from your own than the junior colleagues who most closely resemble you.

How to build a sponsor-protégé alliance

Whether or not both parties win what they want over time through a sponsorship alliance depends on how much work each is willing to put into helping the other advance. If they want to win and retain sponsor advocacy, protégés must help advance the careers of their sponsors. They can signal to potential sponsors their readiness to give back delivering above and beyond their job descriptions, thereby showing their willingness to take on greater roles and responsibilities as well as keeping their sponsor informed about what’s happening in their careers. Sponsors come through for protégés by expanding their perceptions of what they can do, by making connections between protégés and other senior leaders, and by giving advice on “presentation of self.”

Read our dossier :
Why everyone needs sponsorship alliances to advance their careers

Based on Forget a Mentor, Find a Sponsor: The New Way to Fast-Track Your Career by Sylvia Ann Hewlett (Harvard Business Review Press, September 2013) and the interviews with Debbie Storey, Senior VP Talent Development and Chief Diversity Officer, AT&T, and Allyson Zimmerman, Senior Director, Catalyst Europe AG.
Business Digest nº 242, December 2013

Watch the video :
The Forum: Forget a Mentor, Find a Sponsor

Sylvia Ann Hewlett, author of Forget a Mentor, Find a Sponsor, discusses the importance of sponsorship at work with NYU Law School dean Trevor Morrison and Milbank Women’s Initiative chair Deborah Conrad.