Mentoring programs operate under the promise that matching seasoned executives with up-and-coming professionals will produce all sorts of benefits. Unfortunately, relationships often remain superficial and transactional. These problems have only gotten worse with remote and hybrid work, which makes meaningful personal interaction difficult.
To reap the full benefits of developmental relationships and create “authentic sponsorship,” companies must focus on two vital qualities: public advocacy and relational authenticity. Public advocacy is a one-way process by which “seniors” use their power to help “juniors” get career opportunities. It produces visible and measurable outcomes, such as promotions and stretch assignments. Relational authenticity is a two-way process in which both parties share their perspectives and make themselves open to hearing and learning from each other. Juniors get the support and validation they need to take on new challenges, and seniors understand where their juniors’ capabilities and talents lie and care enough about them to put their own reputations on the line.
This article lays out the various stages of the journey to authentic sponsorship: mentor, strategizer, connector, opportunity giver, and sponsor.