The Sponsor-Sponsee Relationship

In the third blog in our series on sponsorship we look at what it takes to create and sustain a sponsor relationship. Encouraging sponsorship is being used by best practice organisations as part of their action plan to address underrepresentation of women and minority groups in leadership positions.

We have sponsors throughout our lives. Your earliest sponsor was probably your mum, dad, sibling or best friend who put you forward for all kinds of things. Or a teacher who made an extra place for you in that after school club. A career sponsor does the same thing. They promote your abilities and potential when you’re not in the room.

As Tracy Vegro, Executive Director of Strategy & Resources, Financial Research Council observed

“A sponsor gives you confidence, they sometimes appear at your side to help or guide you. It’s about a lasting relationship that’s good for business as well as individuals.”

To be able to work for you on your behalf when you’re not around your sponsor needs to understand your goals, your red lines and to believe in you.

The relationship between a sponsor and sponsee requires absolute trust and confidentiality. It needs investment from both the sponsor and the sponsee.

As the sponsee you need to be really honest about your goals and what you can and cannot or will not do. If family are your priority and frequent overseas travel is out of the question, you need to say so and focus on the roles you could do, the experience you need to show your suitability and how to gain that experience.

It’s important for the sponsee to remain open minded to opportunities which the sponsor might identify. If it’s not obvious, ask how the new opportunity will help you achieve your goal. It could be you’ll gain important new skills or exposure to key individuals or demonstrate to the organisation the ability to take on and deliver a tough assignment.

Heather Melville, OBE and Director and Head of Client Experience of PricewaterhouseCoopers UK, advises sponsees to

“Treat everything as a learning experience, say thank you and go for it”

When these relationships work well, they are powerful. The sponsor and sponsee have each other’s back. The sponsee should find out what they can do to help their sponsor to be successful.

Consider offering to sponsor someone else who is a couple of levels below yourself.

And if your sponsor-sponsee relationship is not working, you need to have an honest discussion about it and build a new one. Sometimes potential sponsors are just too close to your existing day job and the sponsee isn’t comfortable to be as honest as they really need to be to build a successful relationship.

Jo Strain
CMI Southern Lead for Inclusion

Share your insights for building an effective sponsor-sponsee relationship via Twitter on @CMISouthern or LinkedIn: CMI Southern Region

In the next article we will look at how to set up a sponsorship programme.

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