At our "15 Minutes @ Noon" Twitter Chat this month, Patricia Lenkov, President and Executive Recruiter with Agility Executive Search, LLC, shared her thoughts about sponsorship, as part of a multi-faceted strategy to landing a board seat.
According to Lenkov, sponsors can provide valuable advice and support to those advancing in their careers. Citing a Catalyst study, she said that sponsors could propel a protégé to the top of a list of candidates or eliminate the list itself. They can provide advice on how to get on a board and perhaps even more importantly, make relevant introductions.
When asked about what qualities to look for in a sponsor, Lenkov said that the best sponsors are knowledgeable and experienced in and about the boardroom. Ideally, they will have sat on a board or two. But, she acknowledged, boardroom experience is only part of what makes a good sponsor. They also need to be willing to engage in the relationship and make the time to be helpful.
Does a sponsor need to be a CEO? No, says Lenkov, but engaging with a senior and experienced executive is important to achieve your objectives. "The best sponsors have a seat at the decision table," she said. "The ideal and most committed sponsors come from your own network."
Lenkov also points out that a protégé must give as well as receive. Sponsors want to work with people whom they respect. You can make their job easier and rewarding by being the best you can be in your career. Successful protégés recognize that the relationship must be earned -- not just once, but continually.