Why sponsorship is the key to your success

Janine Garner shares her tips for success

“The uncertain future and ever-changing business landscape that we are now experiencing requires us all to step up and become the better someone that tomorrow needs,” says Janine Garner.

The future is asking us to embrace curiosity; develop the ability to connect the dots between data, skills, and people for the answers; be decisive in spite of not always having all the answers; and to inspire others to create a new future.  Finding the CEO of your own personal cheer squad and support crew is critical to help you navigate your success.  They will promote you whenever they can, sponsor your growth, create opportunities for you to shine, pushing you to do more because they believe in you.  Sponsorship is key to your success in these constantly changing times. 

In a Harvard Business Review IdeaCast in June 2019, economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett said, “[Sponsorship is] a much more serious thing, because an established leader … deliberately invests in a younger talent that they see as outstanding. They open doors for them … coach them … develop their careers very proactively … And in return, they themselves see … value. It’s very much a two-way street.”

Sylvia goes on to share the story of Kate, a senior executive who worked for the tax practice of a professional services firm spotting a young Chinese woman, Shau Zhang, who joined the firm in her twenties. Kate was immediately impressed by the fierce and precise marketing energy that this younger woman brought to her work, but she had extremely poor English. So, Kate persuaded the firm to give her individual, one-on-one English lessons, and she also created some executive coaching to fast-track her presentation skills. Five years later, this was such a success story that she gave Shau the challenge of co-leading a new venture at the firm. Shau went on to lead this team and it’s now a $100 million-a-year business.

While mentors can counsel an individual, offering guidance and advice based on their own experience, it is more of a softly, softly approach.  Mentoring is more about giving advice and listening to concerns than saying, “Yes, I will help you gain…”

Active sponsorship is far more targeted, powerful, and a large obligation. It involves the intentional support of another: taking action, collaborating, and sharing what you know and who you know to better someone else—and the results of those being sponsored are often far greater than when mentored.  Sylvia Ann Hewlett summed this up perfectly when she said, “Mentors advise, sponsors act.”

Usually sponsorship is from someone senior within the company that directs opportunities to a junior employee they believe shows strong potential. Sponsorship requires a significant commitment as the sponsor is willing to invest in the employee’s career growth by using their own social and political capital for benefit.

In the 2018 TED Talk ‘How to find the person who can help you get ahead at work’,  Carla Harris, vice chair and managing director at Morgan Stanley said, “You are not going to ascend in any organisation without a sponsor.”

Sponsors will intentionally:

  • take action
  • open doors
  • make invaluable introductions
  • give business/career leads
  • be in it for the long haul
  • help pave the path to success
  • help others achieve their visions, goals, and personal and business success dream 
  • build connections that matter, and influence activity and decision-making

But don’t just take my word for it. According to research from the Centre for Talent Innovation (a Manhattan-based think tank), people with sponsors are 23 per cent more likely to move up in their career than those without them. In addition, a 2011 study from the Centre for Work Life Policy published by the Harvard Business Review found that active promotion of others can result in a 30 per cent increase in promotions, pay rises, and projects for the person being sponsored.

Success is a complex process, but someone who has been there and done that can explain exactly how it is, what to do, and how to navigate the journey—from their learned experience. A sponsor can become instrumental in helping build your confidence and supporting the pursuit of your passion. They will help catapult your career, unleashing your brilliance so that you are able to surpass your dreams and become what you want to become.  

Janine Garner is a global thought leader on powerful networking, collaboration and transformational leadership. A highly sought-after keynote speaker, educator and best-selling author, Janine works with high-profile global leaders, and helps many of Australia’s top 50 ASX companies and multinationals. Her new book Be Brilliant – how to lead a life of influence (Wiley) is now available. Visit www.janinegarner.com.au