Helping Women Leaders Succeed: Secrets from a Sponsor-Protege Story

From left to right: Winston Ngan, Partner EY; Dr. Tanvi Gautam; Sian Brown, Director head of APEG Barclays; Anne-Marie Balfe, D&I leader, EY; Christine Lee, Partner EY

By Dr. Tanvi Gautam

 

Bright and early this morning I went to attend a session organized by the Diversity Committee of the British Chamber of Commerce: Progressing to Leadership: The Role of Sponsorship.
 
"I wonder what they will say that I may not have heard before?" I thought to myself. Given my involvement in women and leadership, I attend such conversations across the globe and inevitably they all start sounding the same. I could not have been more wrong!
 
It was a no holds barred candid conversation of the sponsorship journey taken by two partners of EY which has a formal sponsorship program of matching high potential with senior leaders. They discussed what it meant to be in a sponsorship relationship with someone whose style maybe very different than yours, namely Winston being more analytical and Christine being more expressive as well as what it meant to be worthy of good sponsorship. Here are some lessons I took away:
 

Lesson #5: Your sponsor is not meant to be your mirror copy

 

S/he may be different. Respect the difference and commit to the relationship. Mutual trust and not similar working styles is the foundation of success.
 

Lesson #4: Be worthy of sponsorship

 

 Christine noted that her job was to work hard to justify the faith the her sponsor put in her. I wanted him to know I was worth the sponsorship she felt.
 

Lesson #3: Pay it forward

 

While it may seem that it is only the protege who benefits from the relationship, it is a great opportunity for the sponsor to get some feedback, build the future leaders of the firm and enjoy a trusting relationship with the protege. Given the principles of reverse mentoring this makes perfect sense.
 

Lesson # 2: Robust process and complete transparency eliminates real or imagined bias 

 

Having a sponsor does not mean that results/output of the protege are ignored. Those who don't have a sponsor will always feel left out and so laying out the process in a fair manner makes for a more conducive environment.
 

Lesson #1: Sponsorship is a critical but not sufficient conditions for success

 

The protege has to take ownership and responsibility for their own career path.
 
I did tweet the ideas that captured my attention here: https//storify.com/tanvi_gautam/progressing-to-leadership-the-power-of-sponsorship
 
Have you ever been in a sponsoring role or relationship? What can you recommend to make the system work? Did any of the lessons resonate with you? I would love to learn from you and with you!
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