Some of this clarity relates to who is sponsoring the training. The sponsor is not the coach, but is responsible for financial arrangements and has a personal interest in the coachee performing at their best. The sponsor is usually a high-level stakeholder with strong connections, a large network of contacts, and social equity. A sponsor is willing to use their reputation and credibility in the service of their protégé.
Compared to mentors, sponsors invest more in their protégés, as they take greater personal risks to defend them. In fact, sponsors directly support those protected, using their influence, power and contacts to help them have better career opportunities. A sponsor is someone who talks about you when you're not in the room. He is nominated for selection committees, awards and promotions.
You can do everything well, but if someone doesn't notice or recognize your efforts, it will be extremely difficult to get a promotion within your organization. Carla Harris, a Wall Street veteran, crystallizes this point in her popular TED talk. Having someone to openly defend you is critical to your success. When receiving a training report from a sponsor, there are a number of practical issues that make sense to clarify right from the start.
The most obvious one is to identify what participation the sponsor wants in the training program and whether there is anyone else who, sensibly, also expects to participate in some way. In this situation, the coach can sometimes find someone from the Human Resources or Talent Development team to take on the role of the coach's sponsor. When that happens, the coaching job has the best possible chance of meeting the needs of the client, the sponsor and the organization. It is up to the coach to enable the sponsor to play a positive and useful role in the coach triangle formed by client, sponsor and coach.
I think it's important to specify at this point what level of commitment I would ideally like the coaching sponsor to have. My experience is that there aren't many coaching programs that benefit as much from the coaching sponsor as they could. While mentoring generally relates to good advice and key objectives, sponsorships often go one step further, as the sponsor is more personally involved in a person's development and success. When this happens, for reasons beyond the coach's control, the coaching work must be carried out without the active participation of a sponsor.
A mentor is someone who listens, provides information, and shares formal or informal advice and advice, but doesn't necessarily train or sponsor. A committed sponsor can help the coach understand what has led the organization to invest in training for this client. In fact, he says, “this is the perfect way to find and get sponsors, since they must first witness a person's brilliance and believe in their potential. This higher-level status means that the sponsor is someone who has power and influence in the company and, therefore, can successfully support and defend an employee's progress by communicating with other people of the company.
Some sponsors are absolutely resistant to any attempt by the client or coach to involve them in the training program. Much of the program focuses on minimizing the chance of misunderstandings arising between the coach and the sponsor as the training work progresses. In short, the coaching sponsor represents a tremendously valuable source of information and alternative perspectives.