By Sally Stetson
April 25, 2013

Susan Chadick, Co-CEO of New York City executive search firm Chadick Ellig, is an expert in identifying extraordinary women and minority candidates for executive and board level positions. Susan shares her views on why 'sponsoring' positively impacts the levels of diversity hires for executive suite positions.

1.What is the key difference between sponsoring and mentoring?

Sponsoring is putting someone forward, whereas mentoring is helping to develop someone. "A sponsor is someone who says 'I recommend, I endorse, I suggest xyz for this role - she is ready for it and she, in my opinion, will deliver.' It is not necessarily an ongoing relationship like mentoring. Mentoring is a relationship that is an active pursuit and requires give and take and ongoing feedback over time. It generally involves a more senior person helping a more junior person. One is much more likely to have a mentor but a sponsor is a true actor in advancing an individual. People pick individuals they want to mentor because they see that they have potential. They sponsor people who they have seen do extraordinary things."

2. How does someone identify when they need a sponsor over a mentor?

"When you have identified an aspiration which you can't fulfil within your own immediate network, a sponsor can make the difference. There is an incorrect assumption that if you are great, people will tap you. In reality, you are very fortunate if that happens. Sometimes you have to raise your head and 'lean in'. People who are ambitious and driven will approach potential sponsors and ask for their support."

3. What attributes should a person seek in a potential sponsor?

"Influence, connections, credibility and integrity - these are critical."

4. How do you get a sponsor and who do you choose? As a sponsor, who should you support?

"You probably have to approach a potential sponsor.  It will be a person who has observed you and is impressed with the quality of your work and character, and has watched you do exceptional things that differentiates you from your peers. Not everyone has a sponsor. Only outstanding people get sponsors.

"Who you sponsor reflects on you.  It is important to choose someone who you think is a 'winner,' is going to go far and reflect well on you.

5. What if you ask someone and they say no? What should you do?

"Nobody is just going to say 'no'. They are more likely to say, 'It's not something I get involved with.'  But it would be embarrassing. So your next question could either be, 'What would I have to do to make you feel comfortable?', or, 'I'm disappointed but can you help me understand your decision?' That way you can take rejection as a developmental opportunity. But you need to consider that if they say 'no,' approaching them was a mistake. There is also probably something amiss in your relationship and what they know about you."

6. Is sponsoring a new concept?

"As a more transparent process yes, but let's be clear, men have been putting forward more junior men, who looked like them and acted like them, for business opportunities, forever. 'You remind me of my son/of myself at your age, come to my golf club, where do you want to work? Let me make a few calls - I know the CEO.' That is sponsoring.  What is happening now is that sponsoring as a concept has come to the attention of those with influence among all the super-talented other people out there. This expands sponsors beyond with whom one has a social connection or a common bond through an educational institution." 

7. Should a diversity candidate seek a white male sponsor or a diversity sponsor?

"I don't think we should think about the world in that way. People should pick the sponsor who knows them best, who is most willing to be honest and helpful, and who has the best influence to be impactful for them. You might have a white male sponsor in your business life because he or she understands the nuances of what you are facing and vice versa you may have a diversity sponsor because she or he has successfully navigated the path on which you are embarking."

8. Do you know of any formal sponsoring programs?

"The Women's Forum of New York has a program where we have asked CEOs to sponsor women who they feel are ready to serve on boards. We are compiling a repository of female candidates who are 'board-ready' and demonstrably so."

9. Do you know of any sponsoring success stories you can share?

"I was recently appointed to the board of the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, thanks to being sponsored by a woman who was a client of mine. I don't think I would have come to their attention without her involvement and support."

10. As a person's career develops, does their sponsorship and mentoring needs change?

"Absolutely, and you may have one sponsor for one project or aspiration and another sponsor for something else.

"I want to be very clear on an important point: you can ask someone to sponsor you, but a sponsor does the deciding. He or she picks the person they want to sponsor. The perception must be, this is a person on the rise; she is phenomenal, she will make an outstanding contribution...

"With the rise of sponsoring as a concept it will be interesting, in time, to measure the results. Will we see a rise in diversity at board and c-levels? I hope so."

For more information on Chadick Ellig, please visit

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