Inarticulate ramblings of a management consultant

the day to day experiences of a consultant operating in weird and wonderful client situations

Sponsorship – comes in many shapes and sizes


A few years ago when I was contemplating the opportunity to come to Asia and going through a rather tortuous International Mobility exercise (which seemed full of process but lacked any sense of progress), a colleague whispered to me the secret of all such moves….’sponsorship’. Find a sponsor, he said, one who has money and influence, and all the obstacles you’re currently facing through the ‘official’ processes will magically disappear! A couple of weeks later I was in a meeting with a leader in the organisation and explained the opportunity and my predicament…his exact words were “that’s easy, I have the money and you’re going”. 2 months later we (me, my wife and my three young children) were on the plane to Singapore.

With a current client, the most important sponsor (both in terms of influence, budget and access to leadership) is someone who sits in the mid-tier of the organisation…why is he so important? Because he has a skill which no-one else has, in this case an intimate knowledge of the systems architecture of his organisation. Want to get something done in that organisation? Link it with one of his interests and watch the initiative fly through the various approval hurdles.

In a merger integration which I was involved in 10 years ago, after what seemed like months of ineffective and inefficient decision making, we finally worked it out. Get to the CEO’s secretary (in this case, a very capable woman who had been with the organisation for 15 years), understand what the agenda and time pressures were that he was under, and help her manage them. Blockages were removed, time was found and the project moved on at pace.

As a head-hunter 20 years ago, it became apparent very early on that the key sponsor who needed to approve any possibility of a successful search, was not employed by either current or future employer. It was the target’s partner who had the most influence on the success or failure of a potential placement.

As I look at the sponsors that influence ‘millennials’ behaviour (the recent Deloitte report is excellent by the way), two things immediately strike me:

  1. The concept of ‘employer proposition’ is significantly broader than ever before, extending specifically into the community perception / brand as a ‘good’ employer and mission.
  2. The influence of the peer group far outweighs that of older, more experienced individuals. As I wrote in a previous post, experience in an irrelevant subject / way of working has curiosity value but little more to a new generation which has grown up as the first which is truly digitally enabled.

As we enter an increasingly ‘flat’ world in terms of organisational structure, the important thing to realise is that sponsorship no longer requires seniority or indeed longevity.

Sponsors Dilbert




Categories: C suite leadership, Complex transformation, Functional Leadership, Organisational design, Organisational Structure, Strategy, Transformation

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