On July 7, Karin Wellbrock, executive coach at Kay Group, held the second installment of her Women in Leadership webinar series. She discussed the role that sponsors play in the growth of women in leadership roles, and how they must enable and encourage female professionals to achieve their goals and secure a seat in the executive suite.
Karin began by giving a recap of the previous webinar, For CEO’s it Must Be Personal.
Karin went on to discuss some of the typical challenges that women face in terms of their professional development. It was revealed that unhelpful feedback is one of the main ones. She shared that 66% of women receive negative feedback on their personality in performance reviews, as opposed to the small figure of 1% for men.
It was then discussed that women are over mentored, but under sponsored. Karin talked about the differences between mentors and sponsors, saying that a mentors can be at any level in the organization given that they have experience. Their main role is to help a mentee determine their paths to meet their own career goals. However, a sponsor is almost always a senior leader in the organization and can utilize their role to ensure that the person they are sponsoring is advocated for both visibly and behind closed doors. These senior leaders can use their influence to ensure for instance that their candidates are being given high-visibility assignments to gain necessary experience to level the playing field with male candidates.
To achieve this, the members of the leadership team should develop a sponsor mindset.
Coaching can facilitate mindset change and support personal reflection on aspects that are “below the surface” of our conscious mind. Together with the coach, the sponsor will explore what’s holding him back and what he wants to change in order to become a more people focused and supportive leader. Karin explained that the main factors of a sponsor mindset are authenticity, inquisitiveness, a growth mindset, and an ownership of the next generation of leaders, together with skills to identify and develop high potentials.
Coaching and Development
In her research Karin identified three types of sponsors:
- The Pay it Forward—a leader who is a genuine people developer
- The My Reputation First—a leader who is selective in supporting others and plays it safe
- The Not My Cup of Tea—a leader who relentlessly business focused
Coaching, said Karin, can assist in changing the mindsets of individual leaders. To accelerate the development of young professionals, sponsors must have the desire to develop people, have the skills to evaluate people, and access to opportunities for growth. As a coach, Karin works with both the sponsors and the candidates to achieve their development goals.
The “Pay it Forward” type of sponsor would be the ideal sponsor, Karin explained. In order to become one you should check your mindset and critically review your own barriers and fears, and ask yourself why you are not stepping up and advocating for others.
It Starts at the Top…
So, where does this begin? Who sets the direction, initiates, and encourages a sponsorship mindset? Karin said that the CEO / county head does. As explained in the previous webinar, CEOs / country heads with an intrinsic desire for inclusion are most likely to move their DEI agenda successfully forward. The more personal it is for them, the more they will inspire their leadership team and the organization. The CEO /country head and their leadership team should have a common understanding to introduce the role of the sponsor and to equip them with the required skills. Developing a sponsor mindset through coaching can create a genuine desire to advocate and champion young female professionals sets down a foundation for succession planning.
As a leader you have a responsibility to sustain an organization, and sponsoring can be a way to develop more diverse leaders who meet the future challenges.