New to the business world-at-large is something many of us have been doing for quite some time:  Sponsoring.

In the new parlance, a sponsor is a few steps up from a mentor, or someone who actively promotes you in the workplace, helping you get to the top.  It’s not a role to be solicited.  Nor is it conferred upon the meek.  Rather, says a recent Fortune magazine article, a sponsor-executive bets on your career and your track record, expecting the same loyalty in return. 

How is sponsorship all that different than our search for executive support for a large corporate initiative?  In the latter case, the naming of a sponsor is also a critical nuance for success:  She, he, or they need to have internal credibility, external presence, and a reputation for removing barriers and getting projects done. 

Or when we as marketers identify a sports or arts event, entertainment or cause that we want to own, er, sponsor?  Similar criteria rule:    Both parties must be credible, work together on a deal or deals of mutual benefit, and provide assurance of success, all along the way.

Easy to find?  Not really.  There’s no sure thing in sponsorships, whether of the change or the collaborative or the personal variety.    Validating what an executive has done (or not) in the past will help.  Has s/he managed the situation in good and not-so-great times, with grace under a lot of pressure?  Will they stand up for the outcomes, given that the cause is the right one?  Is it possible for the sponsor to act with not only integrity, but also with a touch of humor and humility?

Acquisitions and mergers, transitions and big lumpy strategy changes (to mention just a few) tend to reveal all sorts of behaviors in managers and employees that might not have been witnessed before.  Some good, some not.  So when thinking about the specific upcoming change and about the right kind of sponsor, prepare well.   Find that star manager.  And make sure you’ve got his/her back.