Feeling a strong “blood tie” to his sponsor, an African American banking executive told Sylvia Ann Hewlett, the founding president of the Center for Talent Innovation, “A sponsor will smack you harder to shape up but will protect you as you move to the next level.”
Sponsors Matter Much More Than Mentors
“Sponsors, not mentors, put you on the path to power and influence by affecting three things: pay increases, high-profile assignments, and promotions,” Hewlett points out in her groundbreaking new book, Find a Sponsor. “While more women than men have been mentored, 15 percent more men have won promotions according to research by Catalyst, cited in Hewlett’s book. “70 percent of sponsored men and 68 percent of sponsored women feel they are progressing through their ranks” at a satisfactory rate “as compared to“57 percent of their unsponsored peers,” discovered Hewlett.
The beneficial “sponsor effect” is even greater for women and for people of color. “Sponsorship has long been the inside track for Caucasian men,” Hewlett points out. “Mentors give. Sponsors invest.” Sponsors are effective champions for you.
Why Women Tend to Seek the Wrong Kind of Sponsor
One of the biggest mistakes women make is in seeking a close relationship with an admired role model higher in the organization, often a woman who exudes an inclusive leadership style, according to Hewlett. Yet, such individuals often don’t have what Hewlett calls “juice” – the clout to protect and advance them up to the top. From Hewlett’s research, people at U.S. companies believe that most top executives are “the classic, command-and-control leader who values deference from his lieutenants about all,” and that most are “competitive types – hard-edged, hard-driving guys who value quarterly bottom results.” As Hewlett candidly admits, “They may not even be leaders you hugely admire.”
Yet, I would add, you don’t have to act unethically or lose your soul. Aligning with a powerful sponsor means you have more opportunity to use your best, often complementary talents, taking risks along the way, knowing that your alpha sponsor has your back because you leverage their success as they accelerate yours.
Sheryl Sandberg is a famous example. While she was oblique, in Lean In, about the extent of their help, she attracted several alpha male sponsors. One of them, Lawrence H. Summers took her under his wing as a research assistant at Harvard. When he was tapped to run the World Bank she came with him. In his next move to the U.S. Treasury, she became his chief of staff.
Ask Your Sponsor for Unvarnished Feedback
Display what Hewlett characterizes as “an appetite for the brutal truth.” “I was lucky; I was raised by wolves, starting out at Harvard Business School,” Barnard College president, Debora Spar told Hewlett. Men took an interest in my career, but they were harsh. I had to learn – early – to get comfortable with that.” As a result of organizational tendency to handle women with kid gloves, most possible sponsors won’t give women the critique they need, found Hewlett.
How To Be Valuable to Your Sponsors
While outstanding performance are a given to get a steadfast sponsor, loyalty will make you indispensable…. See the rest at my Forbes column.