Want to be a better manager? Get a protégé

June 19, 2019

By Sylvia Ann Hewlett at Harvard Business Review on June 17, 2019

Who benefits when a manager or executive sponsors someone more junior, offering guidance, advocacy, and support? If you answered, the protégé, you’d be only getting it half right.

Sponsorship — a relationship in which an established or rising leader picks an outstanding junior talent and develops that person’s career — certainly does boost the protégé, who has access to the sponsor’s experience and connections. But data shows that the sponsor also gains enormous value from this relationship. According to a nationally representative survey conducted for my new book, The Sponsor Effect: How to Be a Better Leader by Investing in Others,senior-level managers who have a protégé are 53% more likely to report having received a promotion in the previous two years. Entry-level managers who have a protégé are 60% more likely to have received a stretch assignment.

Looking at the long term, among survey respondents, who ranged from entry-level managers to CEOs, 39% of those with a protégé deemed themselves “satisfied with their professional legacies” at this moment of their careers. Only 25% of those who didn’t have protégés said the same.

The benefits of sponsorship don’t accrue to managers and executives who merely mentor someone more junior. A mentor offers advice and perhaps an introduction or two; the mentee listens politely and says thank you. Sponsor and protégé, on the other hand, are both actively and publicly working for each other’s success. It’s that active investment from both sides that makes the relationship so mutually beneficial.

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