Few initiatives, big or small, succeed without the help of a champion or sponsor—someone who takes ownership over the process and keeps the other stakeholders and team members focused in the midst of other responsibilities.
Traditionally, a sponsor is someone who has some clout within the organization—through formal authority, expertise, or seniority.
But giving junior staff members sponsorship opportunities could provide big benefits, as well. This can not only free up busy individuals’ time who might be tasked to take on a sponsor role but also boost the careers of junior employees serving as sponsors and help the organization develop its future leaders.
Here, we look at how an organization might put a junior team member in the position of a sponsor or champion.
The Right Stuff
Certainly, it’s crucial that the potential sponsor have some specific characteristics, particularly if the person will be chosen from lower levels of the hierarchy.
In addition to the traditional characteristics required of any sponsor—organizational skills, big-picture thinking, leadership, etc.—junior-level sponsors need to have the confidence it takes to lead staff over whom they have no formal authority, potentially even those who outrank them. They also need to be able to handle setbacks and adversity well, as they may encounter a few struggles along the way.
Mentoring and Support
Just because an employee has the right stuff to serve as a sponsor or a champion doesn’t mean he or she should just be thrown into the deep end and expected to swim. Staff with little or no formal authority and little experience acting as sponsors need the support of a senior mentor—someone who can not only offer advice and experience but also serve as a point of escalation to bolster the authority of junior-level sponsors.
Not all initiatives are necessarily suitable to putting a junior-level employee in the driver’s seat. But projects that are relatively low risk can be great opportunities for less experienced staff to gain valuable experience in a leadership role on a temporary basis while freeing time for the senior staff who would otherwise be performing those functions.
What sponsorship opportunities could your company—and your junior-level staff—benefit from?