7 Ways to Spot a Potential Sponsor

Like this on Facebook

A sponsor is someone who is willing to place a bet on untapped potential. A seasoned sponsor will have established a track record as a talent scout and talent developer.

According to Amanda Martinez, who is Group Vice President of Corporate Procurement with Albertsons Companies, you’ll recognize a potential sponsor because he or she has a track record of creating success stories out of protégés. “Your sponsor needs to be someone who people see as a good judge of performance,” she says. “That makes the sponsor’s vote much more powerful.”

If your company is like most, there are a limited number of people in your organization who have both the desire and the influence to act as your sponsors. Here’s an important first step toward gaining sponsorship: Identify who those leaders are.

If you’re not familiar with whom these individuals are, make a point of finding out. Here are seven ways to spot potential sponsors.

1. Look for leaders who publicly praise subordinates, support them on contentious issues, and offer career guidance and challenging assignments to rising stars.

2. Talk to colleagues to uncover which leaders are hands-on in their involvement with talent development initiatives such as mentoring and high-potential talent management programs.

3. Observe the career paths of other high-potential leaders to see if you can figure out who is sponsoring them. If someone’s career is soaring, chances are there’s a sponsor or two behind the scenes, facilitating that advancement.

4.  Attend employee resource group events to discern which executive sponsors and speakers are the most involved and committed.

5. Pay attention when colleagues speak highly of the boss who made a big difference in their career, or entrusted them with a high-profile assignment that broadened their capabilities.

6. When an up-and-coming leader speaks up in a meeting, notice who supports them, endorses their ideas, and backs their decisions.

7. When your organization encounters turbulence, like downsizing, reorgs or a change in leadership, watch out for leaders who are actively protecting protégés from the negative impacts of those changes.

If you discover a leader who fulfills two or more items on this list, take advantage of opportunities to network with that advocate and get to know him or her.

But making yourself known to a potential sponsor is only the first step. There’s more to it.

Step into a sponsor’s shoes for a moment: Can you really expect this person to advocate for you, call in favors, speak persuasively on your behalf, and generally put his or her reputation at stake to advocate for you, when you barely know each other?

Think about it. A sponsor has to trust that you’ll do what’s best for the business, and that you’ll represent them well. Before recommending you for a larger role, or a risky, high-profile project, you must display your strengths and your untapped potential. The sponsor also needs to know enough about your career goals to be sure you’ll say “yes” when they recommend you for an assignment. And they need to have faith that you’ll deliver. This level of trust can only be built over time.

Sponsorship is not a relationship that can be built in the time it takes to ask, “Hey, Valerie, will you sponsor me?” during a drive-by hallway conversation. Asking for sponsorship outright may even hurt your chances of enlisting that executive if you haven’t clearly demonstrated your capabilities, track record, and trustworthiness.

So if you aspire to attract a sponsor, go beyond the basics of business networking. Look for opportunities for the potential sponsor to get to know you and your work. This could mean volunteering to deliver a presentation to him or her, or inviting that leader to attend a team meeting where you’re scheduled to speak. Or, you can volunteer for a special project working directly for your potential sponsor, or serve together on a committee. The goal is for the sponsor to see you in action.

Step up and perform well, and you might make an impression on a future sponsor.

For a list of additional steps you can take now to attract a sponsor’s attention, click here.

Jo Miller

A leading authority on women’s leadership, Jo Miller is a sought-after, dynamic, and engaging speaker, delivering more than 70 speaking presentations annually to audiences of up to 1,200 women. Her expertise lies in helping women lead, climb, and thrive in their corporate careers. Jo has traveled widely in Europe, North America, Asia Pacific, and the Middle East to deliver keynotes and teach workshops for women’s leadership conferences, women’s professional associations, and Fortune 1000 corporate women’s initiatives. Jo is founding editor of BeLeaderly.com. Learn more about her speaking engagements at www.JoMiller.net and follow @Jo_Miller on Twitter.


Want to maximize your influence? Here are 3 things to stop doing, now.

Want to maximize your presence, visibility and influence? Here are 3 activities you may want to limit. 1.  Managing the wrong reputation.  When was the ...

3 Ways To Manage Your Impostor Syndrome & Land Your Next Role

“If I don’t get this sorted out, it’s going to affect my whole career, ” she told me. In front of me was a talented ...

Is It Time to Rebrand Yourself at Work?

Would you know when it’s time to rebrand yourself at work? Building a personal brand for yourself means figuring out what you want to be ...

Ready to lead?

We'll show you how!
Get email updates from Be Leaderly.

Our mission is to provide the career strategies that help you lead, climb and thrive as a rising woman of influence.

Four Types of Questions To Ask Your Mentor

Have conversations with your mentor gotten a bit repetitive lately? Perhaps you approached ...

5 Ways to be a Leader, Not a Manager

Have you ever wondered about the difference between a manager and a leader? ...

How to Shut Down a Colleague Who Takes Credit for Your Work

Has this ever happened to you? You’re in a meeting and the unthinkable ...

15 Songs for Your Leadership Playlist

It was one of those conference moments I’ll never forget: Carly Fiorina had ...

10 Killer Leadership Skills: The Great Differentiators?

Last week at Hallmark I hosted a couple gentlemen from a partner company. ...

Influencing Without Authority—Using Your Six Sources of Influence

I am in the difficult situation of being unofficial project lead, responsible for ...

11 Leadership Lessons Learned

Here are 11 lessons I’ve learned about leadership—mostly from much-admired colleagues, and just ...

6 Critical Missteps That Hurt Your Career Advancement

Let’s face it: it isn’t easy to break out and establish yourself as ...

Nine Qualities of Female Leaders Who Get Beyond the Glass Ceiling

I’m frequently asked to speak about women in law and specifically the issue ...

9 Traits of Exceptional Leaders

Truly great leaders are hard to come by, but it seems everyone thinks ...

5 Things Women Leaders Should Stop Doing. TODAY.

Over the last couple years, I’ve had a front row seat to career ...

4 Characteristics of Leaders Who Get Hired and Promoted

Imagine if you had the opportunity to sit down with a senior executive ...

8 Types of Courage for Aspiring Leaders

“The truth is that courage resides within you; you must simply decide to ...

25 Questions to Ask a Mentor

A few years ago, around the time when I was launching this blog, ...

Emerging Leader Spotlight: Erin Lo
Emerging Leader Spotlight: Erin Lo

Every month we ask an emerging leader we admire to share what she is doing

How to Go After Awards and Recognition (and Win)
How to Go After Awards and Recognition (and Win)

Just last week, a Director at a well-regarded business school explained to me that she

Leaderly Quote: Don’t let fear steal your dreams
Leaderly Quote: Don’t let fear steal your dreams

“Don’t let fear steal your dreams.” — Sabina Nawaz

Five Strengths of Vulnerable Leaders
Five Strengths of Vulnerable Leaders

The biggest misconception in corporate America is the thinking that vulnerability and weakness are synonymous.

How to Convince a Stranger to be Your Mentor
How to Convince a Stranger to be Your Mentor

When I arrived in the U.S. from India to attend college, I was excited and

Leaderly Quote: Take on things outside your comfort zone…
Leaderly Quote: Take on things outside your comfort zone…

“Take on the things outside your comfort zone that the world is pushing you toward.”

Top 10 Most-Read Articles of 2017
Top 10 Most-Read Articles of 2017

Grab a cup of cocoa, take a seat in your favorite comfy spot, and find

Our Best of 2017 – 33 Leadership Quotes (Slideshow)
Our Best of 2017 – 33 Leadership Quotes (Slideshow)

Every other Monday morning at BeLeaderly.com we post one of our favorite leadership quotes to help you

4 Ways to Execute a Stretch Assignment Like a Rock Star
4 Ways to Execute a Stretch Assignment Like a Rock Star

Want to uncover a bigger, bolder vision for your career than you can imagine today?

Lend Your Voice! Participate in Our Research Survey
Lend Your Voice! Participate in Our Research Survey

Help us change the game for working women by participating in our brief research survey

Cultivate Your Inner Voice of Courage (Video)
Cultivate Your Inner Voice of Courage (Video)

You’re not smart enough. You’re too new to this. You make bad choices. We all

Leaderly Quote: Someone sees the leader in you
Leaderly Quote: Someone sees the leader in you

Sometimes a thought or quote leaves an indelible mark on us. It was more than

What Does it Mean to Have a Sponsor? (Podcast)
What Does it Mean to Have a Sponsor? (Podcast)

What does it mean to have a sponsor? How is a mentor different? And how

The 5 Best Times to Negotiate on the Job
The 5 Best Times to Negotiate on the Job

When we negotiate and fail, the effects can set us back both personally and professionally. Perhaps

At Be Leaderly, our mission is a simple one: To provide proven career strategies that help you lead, climb, and thrive as a rising woman of influence. If you’re ready to lead, we’re here to support and inspire you.




We will never share, rent, or sell your personal information or email address.
Copyright 2018, Be Leaderly