Coach Dan encourages you to find a sponsor and not just a mentor.

Ah, a moment of contemplation! A poetic ambition I must say, but not always realistic in most people’s life.  Actually I did have a few minutes this week where I actually had time to just take a deep breath and discuss with myself how I’ve managed to succeed to the levels that I have. I thought about those daring individuals who have helped me overcome adversity, succeed and get clarity in my career and in my business ventures. And sometimes had the guts to kick my butt around the block a bit in order to get my attention. Looking back, most of them were actually more of a personal success “sponsor,” my personal Yoda, rather than a mentor.

Just like Luke Skywalker had his Yoda, we should hope to be lucky enough to have a personal sponsor as well. So, who is a sponsor? According to a blog by Sylvia Ann Hewlett titled “The real benefit of finding a sponsor,” in the Harvard Business Review in January 2011, a sponsor is someone who “uses chips on his or her protégé’s behalf and advocates for his or her next promotion as well as doing at least two of the following: expanding the perception of what the protégé can do; making connections to senior leaders; promoting his or her visibility; opening up career opportunities; offering advice on appearance and executive presence; making connections outside the company; and giving advice.” Yep, these people were my sponsors!

Hewlett clearly differentiates between mentors who most often simply provide friendly advice while sponsors actually root for you and help you reach the next level. Most of my sponsors had skin in the game and made me more accountable than mentors who provided great advice and direction. I’ve had the fortune of interacting with both but acquiring a sponsor often gets us the “Godfathers,” who can help us succeed.

In today’s quick and cutthroat business world, it is just imperative that you find a great sponsor. Find someone who can take you under his or her wings and truly enable you to be accountable in your life and business. As a protégé you have the responsibility to work hard and follow through your sponsor’s guidelines. They’ve vouched for you creating a very powerful level of accountability.

Sponsors often volunteer to teach you what they know and narrate their own life experiences to you. They’re interested in passing their legacy on to a next generation. You can call on a sponsor on a daily basis and receive coaching and advice without questions. The sponsor believes in you! They have put their reputation on the line for your career success and growth. A great sponsor can provide you a perfect guidance system for your future.

In my life, I’ve had the great fortune of having a number of sponsors. And I’m just now beginning to realize what that meant to my life and career. An Admiral in the Navy; a fortune 5 CEO; a relative; a farmer, all sponsored me and introduced me to key people within their network. They trusted me, opened their networks for me, taught and advised and counseled me and believed in my success.

So, how do you find a sponsor? The first step is to look within your life. Who are the most successful people that you know or, would like to know who command the greatest respect from peers and subordinates? Who are the ones who show great leadership skills, value people and understand business and the world well?

Open your eyes for individuals already within your current contacts and ask to talk. Tell them about your immediate and future goals and ask them if they would be willing to sponsor your career growth. Most often internal sponsors will be able to get you on a great career track and provide you solid advice and guidance very quickly.

You can also seek out sponsors within your industry. Look for top performing individuals who display excellent character, outstanding leadership skills and reputation. Just one person who will agree to help can open their vast networks for you and change your life.

However, always remember that this is a commitment and a huge responsibility on your part. It is totally up to you to honor this relationship with hard work and perseverance. If you are not prepared to focus, listen and follow through on your sponsor’s advice, the road ahead could get bumpy. The commitment is one that will be sacred. Remember that your sponsor will be committing their name to the brand that is YOU!

If you need some help with finding your sponsor, give me a call or write. This is what I do and I’m open for business.

Be Great!

Coach Dan

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