Recently I had the honor of doing a global webcast for The Conference Board on the topic of sponsorship. Apparently it was one of the more well attended webcasts for The Conference Board, which tells me that sponsorship is a topic people are keenly interested in.
Before we go any further, I think it's important to clarify the difference between mentoring and sponsoring -- and there is a difference, a big difference. A mentor is someone who acts as a resource and role model, offers advice and counsel, and provides perspective and constructive criticism. A sponsor can also be a mentor, but a sponsor takes it to the next level by being willing to advocate on a protégé's behalf with respect to advancement and strategic opportunities. Sponsorship means that someone at a high enough level to be influential is committed to you becoming an executive.
Without sponsorship, both men and women are likely to be overlooked for promotions -- regardless of their competence or performance -- particularly in upper management and above where the competition for promotions increases. As you move through the leadership pipeline, it's critical that you have a sponsor who has the positional power to help influence your advancement.
While men are more naturally sponsored by senior executives, many surveys indicate that high-potential women are over-mentored and under-sponsored relative to their male peers and that this is a key reason they are not advancing in their organizations. While women are known for their ability to build and nurture relationships, they fail to cultivate and invest in relational capital. Sponsorship is a very effective method for tapping into the rich, talented, and large pool of women who are just below the C-suite level but who don't get noticed or considered for higher-level positions.
SHAMBAUGH has created a practice area that is designed to help organizations utilize sponsorship to advance more women into the senior ranks and maximize the full spectrum of gender intelligence. Clearly women bear a big responsibility. But, perhaps surprisingly, men also play a significant role as do organizations themselves. We'll examine the roles and responsibilities of men and organizations in Parts II and III, respectively. For now, let's look at what women can do to gain more sponsorship:
Sponsorship can be a key factor in helping organizations create Integrated Leadership teams and thereby produce better business results. Next month, we'll look at how men can better sponsor capable women leaders.
To learn more about SHAMBAUGH's Sponsorship programs and consulting services, and our other leadership development and coaching services visit www.shambaughleadership.com.