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Leadership Academy reveals secrets of sponsorship

Monday, September 8, 2014  
Posted by: Barbara Francella
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More than 250 NEW members learned the value of being a sponsor during the NEW Leadership Academy webinar "Sponsoring Others," Sept. 5, 2014.

Millette Granville, director of diversity and inclusion for Delhaize Group, and Judi Kletz, associate director, industry reputation and influence for Procter & Gamble, joined Leadership Academy facilitator Jo Miller, CEO of Women's Leadership Coaching, to share insights on sponsorship and advocating for emerging leaders.

Granville opened the webinar comparing the merits mentors and sponsors. "A mentor provides practical information and guidance," she said. "A sponsor is an influential spokesperson for what you are capable of doing."

"Sponsors," added Kletz, "are advocates who give you exposure to senior leaders and job opportunities when you're not there. Everyone needs a sponsor!"

Quoting software engineer Cate Huston, Miller said, "Mentors give you perspective, sponsors give you opportunities." Miller added, "Mentors help you skill up, sponsors help you move up."

Sponsors have had significant roles in each of the guest panelists' careers, they said. Kletz needed and found a supportive sponsor when motherhood took her away from the office. "When I returned from maternity leave six months later, I was successful in securing a new role in a new organization,” she said, "and I have my sponsor to thank for that. It would not have happened otherwise."

Granville was recommended by her sponsor for two influential leadership roles. "My sponsor chose to make sure the right leaders knew the work I had done, and the results I was able to accomplish while I was there.”

Being a sponsoring for others has had a profound impact on the leaders' careers, too. A peer-to-peer reporting relationship offered Kletz an opportunity to explore both sides of sponsorship. "I actually served as his sponsor to take him into his next role, which was actually my role,” she said. "I, in turn, had to lean on my sponsor for my next role." This "cascading of events" allowed Kletz and her sponsor to "leverage the right person at the right time."

For Granville, being asked to recommend a successor enhanced her leadership skills. She found a candidate on her team who consistently stepped up, was collaborative and demonstrated his own leadership ability. "I put my name behind him and recommended him for the role," Granville said.

Granville emphasized that "a sponsor does not have to be an executive, but they do need to have influence," adding that "you never know who is watching you, so be 'sponsor-ready' at all times."

Being an effective sponsor

Effective sponsors are "successful and respected, demonstrate business results and are active listeners in the business and its surroundings," Kletz said, noting that it's also important to understand the difference between leading and following.

An ideal sponsor has accesses to the right people, is persuasive and carries a strong reputation. Vitally important is the "willingness to serve as an advocate for others."

Getting started as a sponsor requires self-awareness and self-promotion, Kletz said. "Credential yourself. Deliver business results and demonstrate that you have built the capability of others." Achieving that, "articulate to management why you want to be considered" as a sponsor.

"Be willing to accept that you can be and sometimes will be wrong — and learn from it," Granville added. She advised NEW members to "be wise about how and whom you sponsor."

Members may register for the next NEW Leadership Academy webinar, "Motivating Your Team" on Nov. 7 at 1 p.m. ET for free and view previous NEW Leadership Academy webinars in the NEW Study Hall.

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