Takeaways from the latest Women in NeuGroup event, sponsored by Deutsche Bank.
Women—and men—who seek sponsorship to help them advance professionally should expect the relationship—if it’s a good one—to involve some tough love.
- That insight was among the key takeaways from a Women in NeuGroup virtual meeting held this week.
Sponsorship is not mentorship. Tough love is one way to distinguish sponsors from mentors—a difference addressed at the spring WiNG event as well.
- While mentors may offer you a shoulder to cry on and help vet your ideas, sponsors won’t sugarcoat your weaknesses. They will tell you what you need to work on to get to that next level in your career. You want someone who will talk you up to others but challenge you and help you develop.
- A sponsor is someone who wields power over decisions at your organization and will provide unyielding promotion on your behalf when you’re not in the room, helping pave the way for advancement.
Give to get. The most effective sponsor relationships are built on the idea that you’ve got to give to get (a central tenet of NeuGroup peer groups). In other words, you need to bring value to the table to receive what you want.
- One speaker suggests asking yourself if there something you can do for the sponsor that matters to them? Do you have insights on anything, can they learn something new from you? Also:
- You can’t just wait for a sponsor to find you, but you can’t just target anyone either. Be strategic and think about what you’re going to contribute to a relationship.
- Be truthful with yourself when you need a sponsor versus a mentor. If a sponsor’s advocacy is going to present a “jetpack” for your career, make sure that you’re ready to seize all opportunities that result.
Timing is everything. One panelist observed that many executives who are no longer travelling have more time to work and breathe. That means more opportunity for you to talk to them. However, since you won’t be running into them in the cafeteria anytime soon, you have to be more deliberate about asking for their time.
- Just make sure to be specific about what you want to talk about. Provide background and questions to show that you are mindful of their time and why you are coming to them and not someone else.
- One panelist, a treasurer, said that in one-on-one meetings, 99% of men bring a “talk sheet” to highlight their accomplishments and 95% of women don’t. However, for her it’s more important to “help me see what you are thinking” and to see that the person is forward thinking, sees the big picture and their role in it.
Hedge your bets. Beware of changing circumstances: A sponsor might leave the company or otherwise lose power so don’t have just one; this advice was from a panelist at a bank where turnover is likely higher than in your company. Other insights and advice:
- Many meeting participants said they only realized they had a sponsor in hindsight, and they don’t know if they currently do! You won’t always know who your sponsors are, so be prepared to shine and seize opportunities when they’re presented.
- You might think your work speaks for itself, and of course it’s very important to get the work done. But don’t be only focused on execution—also put your head up and take credit where credit is due.
- And don’t just execute the work, but take time to prepare for meetings you will participate in. If your boss’s presentation includes your work, ask for time to speak about that piece to get visibility.