Come On and Rescue Me – Aretha Franklin

In 2011, Harvard Business Review published a special report from researchers Hewlett, Marshall, and Sherbin titled “The Sponsor Effect.”  This report revealed the multitude of areas a sponsor can impact on an employee’s career such as getting raises and promotions as well as higher work satisfaction.  However, they found that as little as 19% of men and 13% of women actually had a sponsor.  So how do we create a strong mentoring program in our organization?

Let’s begin by looking at the roles in mentoring relationship.  A sponsor is willing to put their reputation on the line for a protégé and to take responsibility for their promotion.  They will groom this protégé and focus attention on their accomplishments and capabilities.  The researchers asked managers what they most hoped for in a sponsor – 74% said one who would provide honest feedback and suggest practical ways they can gain skills, experience, and leadership.

A sponsor assumes the risk of having to come to the rescue of their protégé, which is to be expected since the word is actually translated, “protected one.”  A Siemens executive clearly asserted that the rescue has to be clearly merited so that it doesn’t look like favoritism.  If multiple rescues are needed, the mentor will walk away from the relationship.

The responsibilities of a protégé are al little less understood.  Top imperatives are demonstrating trust and showing loyalty.  62% of sponsors said that protégés should assume responsibility and be self-directed and many sponsors want their protégé to make them look smart for choosing them.  Ed Gadsden, the chief diversity officer at Pfizer emphasizes that a smart protégé should keep her sponsor apprised of critical developments, and share conversations that might be off his radar, and with those outside of his circle.  Finding solutions and giving different perspectives are very valuable to a sponsor and should be a main function of the relationship.

So how to we find and maintain these relationships?  We will look at that in our next blog and how to start building a collaborative workforce from your inner circle and outward.








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