for hbr.org, | November 24, 2021

How Do I Get Sponsorship Support?

Learning to tell your story can help you get sponsors and, ultimately, that promotion.

Read at hbr.org

MURIEL WILKINS: I’m Muriel Wilkins, and this is Coaching Real Leaders, part of the HBR Presents network. I’m a longtime executive coach, who works with highly successful leaders who have hit a bump in the road. My job is to help them get over that bump, by clarifying their goals and figuring out a way to reach them, so that hopefully they can lead with a little more ease. I typically work with clients over the course of several months, but on this show, we have a one-time coaching meeting focusing on a specific leadership challenge they’re facing. Today’s guest is someone will call “Krish,” to protect her confidentiality. She works in a big consulting firm and has been in the consulting industry for over 10 years. She leads a global team and is responsible for their projects and success, as well as maintaining client relationships. So basically, she has to be effective both internally and externally.

KRISH: I draw strength mainly with working with people, that’s my core strength. I understand people. I can judge someone, their personalities, their perspectives. Where I lack is my confidence.

MURIEL WILKINS: “Krish” is concerned about her career trajectory. She’s been in her role for a while and wants to move forward, but isn’t. She’s on the precipice of the next level in her career, which at her company typically takes at least three or four years to get to, but she’s worried something is holding her back.

KRISH: I don’t know how to tell my own story, because I really self-sabotage myself, because I downplay the things that I’m doing. And I sometimes don’t recognize my own success, I guess. I don’t know how to go and ask them that, “I want to do this, and this is what my expectation is.” And that’s the thing I struggle with. And I think that’s what they’re looking for, but that’s where I think I need to learn to just be brave and go and ask for it. Which I still haven’t figured out how to do, because you are not there to represent yourself. You’re making sure that your sponsors are strong enough, they know your story well, and they go and represent you. The trouble that I have is building that sponsor list.

MURIEL WILKINS: She wants to meet all the criteria for reaching the next leadership level. And one important piece of that, she’s been told, is finding sponsors who can help tell her story, and by doing so, advocate for her next role. I started the conversation by asking her about her career ambition and aspirations.

KRISH: There are two goals. One is to lead a global team, and big complex projects, and the other one is leading a team successfully. The reason I say that, people lead is one of my core skills. I work well with people, I think I know enough about the platform and the practice that we are running. So, that area seems like one of the things that I’m strong at. So that’s the reason that I want to lead that. And also overall, being in the firm for so long, I’ve had enough experience, I know enough people, and I think I can, well, I know I can lead that practice well.

MURIEL WILKINS: So, what’s the prognosis in terms of you making partner?

KRISH: So, I recently started, I hadn’t put down this on paper, but it was all in my head. And at some point I figured I should probably start planning this, because this is a long journey and this is going to take some planning. So I started creating this Excel of things that I need, like the goals that the firm requires, and what I check against, so I started adding all of those. The things that I’m lacking are two areas: one is where I don’t have enough supporters or mentors, the second is the big revenue. The big revenue is still possible, that once I get on a project it’ll still work out. The other one which I really struggle with, is getting the sponsorship. And also, I don’t know if this is the case, but as I see overall, even in our leadership calls and other calls in the firm, more and more number of senior managers and associate directors are women. Like if there are 30 people that are about four or five of them. I have a lot of mentors, I talk one on one to a lot of mentors. But getting that support and getting that sponsorship, is the struggle that I have right now.

MURIEL WILKINS: What do you think is contributing to your struggle of getting that support, getting that sponsorship?

KRISH: Yeah, so a few things. I self-assess myself most of the time, and I think that sometimes doesn’t help either, because I self-sabotage a lot. Because I over think, maybe I’m not good at this, maybe I need to wait it out a bit more, or maybe I should… There’s a lot of things I always debate in my head, and I think I self-sabotage my own chances sometimes. The other thing is how do I… I talk to my mentors, I talk to them, I ask them about, “What should I be doing, where should I go?” But I don’t know how to have that conversation about, “Will you go and tell my story? This is my story, do you know me?” How do I articulate or how do I put forth, “Can you take this and tell my story to the firm that I could be successful, I could do this”?

MURIEL WILKINS: And so, what is your story?

KRISH: Good question. So, my story is that, so I have to prove that I do bring in value, I add value to the firm overall. And in a way, I have to sell myself. And that’s also sort of a struggle for me, but the way I think about it is overall from my past experience, I’ve been with the firm for about 10 years. And overall, every project that I’ve done has spanned over 30 million year on year. Other than that, I could talk to a CDO, I could talk to a CFO, I could work with the clients that do the roadmap. That value is very hard to come by in the firm, and having someone on their side would benefit them. That’s my story, sort of.

MURIEL WILKINS: All right, so let’s take a step back because I’m hearing a lot here and I just want to make sure I have it all. So, you have a clear stake in the ground that you want to become a partner.

KRISH: Yes.

MURIEL WILKINS: It Doesn’t sound like you’re like, “I’m not sure if I want to be partner,” it sounds like you are like definitively, “I want to make partner.” Okay, great. Because that’s first, right? You got to be decisive about these things.

KRISH: Yes. Oh, definitely. That’s what I learned first from everyone.

MURIEL WILKINS: Exactly. It’s like, don’t go through the process if you’re not sure.

KRISH: Yeah. And the other thing that I learned was, they’re like, “You should go and tell everybody that you want to be a partner, because they might just think you don’t want to be one.” I’m like, “Oh, okay. I’ll go tell everyone.”

MURIEL WILKINS: Okay. Exactly, shout it from the mountain tops. Okay, so first is you want to be a partner. Part of your challenge is you feel like you don’t have, as you called it, your tribe. People who will tell and amplify your story, which is very important in a particular, it’s important everywhere, but it’s certainly important in a professional services firm. Because you tend to work project-oriented, you need others to tell the other parts of the firm, partners who might not work with you, who you are, what you do and how you bring value. So, you’re looking for that tribe. And then you said part of the reasons you feel you don’t have that tribe or that sponsorship, is because you aren’t quite sure around what the story is that you need to tell them, so that they can tell your story.

KRISH: Yeah. I do struggle with framing my story, I think that’s part of the struggle, so yeah.

MURIEL WILKINS: So, I’m a believer in let’s go back to the fundamentals, and let’s work on level one before we get to level two, that then gets to level three. So, I would suggest if it’s okay with you, that we focus on the story that then positions you to be a good candidate for partnership. Because without that, you can go out and try to get your tribe, but when it comes down to like, “Okay, well, why should I sponsor you?” You’re going to be like, “Not sure.” And I don’t want that to happen.

KRISH: And I think when I speak also, I think that my self-doubt comes out so obviously because I use words, “I think, I know, maybe.” I’m trying, but it’s just still there somewhere.

MURIEL WILKINS: Yeah. No, absolutely. And you said something important, which is when you name the three things that are necessary to become partner, you said, “I need to have a story, I need to have sponsorship, and I need to have sales,” so it’s like the three S’s. So tell me again, you ran through it again, but I just want to, let’s just role play here. Let’s say I’m a big partner at the firm, you’re getting a chance to spend a couple minutes with me. And I say, “So Krish, what’s going on, what’s on the horizon for you? What are you thinking around? What’s next for you?”

KRISH: What’s next for me is, I think being in the firm what’s next for me? Let me clarify, actually. What’s next for me, from the sense that what do I want to do next in the firm? Or is it the project, or is it like basically what do I want, open ended?

MURIEL WILKINS: I will leave it open-ended, but I’m going to come back to this in a few minutes.

KRISH: Okay. Let me back up and re-answer that. So what’s next for me is I want to take up a large project, that’ll help me build my story and help me meet my revenue and sales number. So that way, I can tell a story and be successful for my next step in my path.

MURIEL WILKINS: May I give you a little bit of feedback here?

KRISH: Yes, of course, please.

MURIEL WILKINS: Yes? Okay. I think part of the issue here is that you’re aiming to be partner, but you’re speaking from a project orientation. Even when I said, “Hey, what’s next for you?” And I left it very open ended, you had a little bit of confusion and hesitation around should I be talking about my project, or should I be talking about what’s next for my career? And my answer to you would, well, who’s sitting in front of you? And what I had told you is you’re talking to a big partner who has influence on your career, and who probably oversees a gazillion projects. And so your discernment has to be, I need to speak to that person at the level at which they’re at, which is broader than a project. So that’s number one is, can you shift gears from thinking about yourself, and then speaking about yourself at the micro level of the project, and shift to thinking and speaking about yourself as a firm leader, which is what a partner is?

KRISH: Yeah.

MURIEL WILKINS: And so when I say that, would you have changed your answer in any way?

KRISH:I probably would have. I would have first asked what the firm’s goals are, what the priorities are for the next year, how are they aiming towards building their revenue growth in a certain area? And focus on trying to, and ask them if they I could lead that part of the practice or part of the project.

MURIEL WILKINS: All right, so you said you would ask those things, right? Is that something that you already have knowledge about, or confidence about, or not?

KRISH: Sort of at the high level, but I think that’s what probably everybody knows, I don’t know if they know any better.

MURIEL WILKINS: Okay. So I think, here’s the thing: what we need to shift you from or transition you from, is telling your story based on the position that you’re in now. You need to start telling your story around what the possibility is of what you will bring to firm if you are a partner. So, when somebody is deciding whether you should be a partner or not, they’re basically placing a bet on the future return. It’s like buying a stock, it’s like investing.

KRISH: Yes, that’s exactly what it is.

MURIEL WILKINS: And so, I can’t look at the stock just for what it is now. I’ve got to look at the stock and say, what’s going to be the future value of the stock? What’s the net present value? I remember a little bit from finance, many, many moons ago. But I don’t look at it for what it’s now, and I’m interested in it because of doing right now, I’m interested in it because of what I see for the future. And so when you think about the value that you can bring in the future, the way you make it relevant is making sure that it’s tied to future business goals. Which is why I asked you, do you have a clear sense of what the future goals of the firm are, right?

KRISH: Yes.

MURIEL WILKINS: If you don’t, you’re going to have a very hard time telling your story. You can tell a story, but it’s not going to be a story about why you’re a good candidate to be a partner. You need to go on a mission, an information gathering mission that goes deeper than the goals that are written on the website or on the posters. Leverage your mentors to say, “Hey, where do you see the firm in five years? Where do you see the firm in…” Five years is a good number. And what is it that’s going to lead to that? And then you can start figuring out where do I fit in that picture?

KRISH: Okay.

MURIEL WILKINS: Let’s take a pause here. What “Krish” realized right from the start of our coaching conversation, is that if she wants others to support or better yet sponsor her, they need to know why they should support her. And that why is framed on what she can bring to the firm in the future, not just what she’s doing now. The simple, yet impactful reframing helps “Krish” understand that this is really about making the business case for herself. It’s about getting the senior leaders at her firm to have confidence that they want her at that table, that she’ll help grow the pie. But in order to do that, she’ll also need to have confidence in herself, which is something she struggles with.

KRISH: I’ve gone to my mentors and asked them about certain leadership roles that are open and granted I may not have all the experience that I need, but nobody else does too. So I asked them, because I said I could ramp up, I could learn, I could take that role and I know I’ll do well. But still that hesitation of confidence, I don’t know if I am not showing confidence enough to take that role on, or if a leader comes and asks, like if my partner comes and asks me, “Are you sure you want to take this?” I should probably say, “I know I will, and I will succeed,” right? And I think that’s the problem, that I sometimes say I might need some more experience or, I don’t know, I think my confidence also comes in the way sometimes.

MURIEL WILKINS: Yeah. So have you ever seen, I can’t believe I’m even talking about this, but have you ever seen that show Shark Tank?

KRISH: Yes.

MURIEL WILKINS: Okay. You can feel, I mean, sometimes I imagine I’m one of the sharks, you can feel when somebody doesn’t even have confidence in their own business. And they don’t invest, they will not invest. And so if you don’t believe you can pull your weight, why should any of the partners believe that you can pull your weight? You might have one or two who can, who are like, “Yeah. I believe in you, I believe in you, I believe in you.” But as you said, you have to have more than one or two who have that confidence. And I’m glad you’re able to recognize that in yourself, and we can go back to that metaphor of picking stocks or investing in a business. Would you invest in yourself?

KRISH: Yes, I think that’s the part, I need to believe and invest in myself. I have this notion that I want to grow, but I haven’t internalized it that much to push myself towards it.

MURIEL WILKINS: Yeah. What do you feel you need to be able to internalize it?

KRISH: I need to go back and write down all my achievements. I think looking at it, what I’ve done, what I’ve achieved, will help me understand that I do have enough experience, and I shouldn’t doubt that I could do whatever I’m aiming to do.

MURIEL WILKINS: And when you think about what experience you need, what metric are you using? What are you using as the point of comparison to determine whether you have it or not?

KRISH: Good question. I don’t have a metric. There is no metric, it’s just, I don’t know actually—

MURIEL WILKINS: Yeah. So, that can leave it feeling like it’s just a moving target. And I don’t know about you, but a moving target is very hard to get wrap your arms around, and feel like you’re solid and grounded in what you’re doing. So, one of the things that I think might be helpful for you is to talk to some new partners. Because what it means to be a new partner, it’s not like you become a partner and then year one, you’re expected to be like the person who’s been a partner for 15 years.

KRISH: Yeah, that’s right. Yeah.

MURIEL WILKINS: There’s an onboarding to even being a partner. Once you become a partner, that’ll be our next coaching session.

KRISH: Exactly.

MURIEL WILKINS: But it would be helpful to understand, what are the expectations even in year one? So that you know what that metric is for yourself. That’s what you have to believe is like, do I think I have what it takes to be able to succeed in year one? At the very least.

KRISH: Yeah, that’s a good idea.

MURIEL WILKINS: Because we’ve been talking about it in generalities, like partner, partner, partner, and then it’s like, well, what does that actually mean? And then once you find that out, then I think you can go back and look at your track record, and look at your experience. And line it up side by side, you’re putting them side by side to be able to say, “Does my experience to date, position me, well position me, to be able to meet the expectations of a first year partner? Is it moving in that direction, or is it moving in a completely different direction?” Then the next question is, where’s the gap and how big is it? It’s, “Directionally, am I moving in the right direction? And then what’s the order of magnitude between where I am and what’s expected?”

KRISH: Got it, okay.

MURIEL WILKINS: Then the process to get there, your story’s going to be your story. The comparison is like the stealer of joy. So it’s not comparison to say, I’m competing with this person, everybody has their own trajectory. And there is something to be learned by other people’s trajectories. So you can certainly still learn about, well, how did they do it? How did they do it? And then say, “Oh, what are the things that could work for me?” Learn from it. I think looking at others, as long as you’re learning and growing from it, is fine. If you’re looking at others, so that then it makes you feel worse about yourself, or it’s like, “Well, I can’t do that,” then don’t compare. Don’t compare. Something that I say is, look at others for inspiration, not for intimidation. And that is a mindset, right?

KRISH: Yep.

MURIEL WILKINS: So, when you look at others for inspiration, what does that mean?

KRISH: You look and learn basically, and not judge yourself over it.

MURIEL WILKINS: And then intimidation is like, “Oh my God, I can’t do that.” Okay, so let’s pull back a little bit. Because I think that this is really about you being able to tell your business case. And when you tell your business case, you are basically sharing how you will help grow the firm. Remember, I talked about increasing the pie. And so, what are the ways that you think, you believe you can help grow the firm? Well, let me even back up a little bit before you answer that. Let’s take it away from you. What are the ways, what are the levers to grow the firm?

KRISH: There are two main levers for sure, and there may be others, but the big ones are definitely helping the client. So bringing in a client and growing with them, is definitely on the top two. Which also, sort of adds to it, to grow your client’s revenue, there may be several levers that you can use.

MURIEL WILKINS: And so, I want you to stay at that level of altitude in terms of the levers. And so, you have client growth, which equals revenue. What other levers are necessary to grow the firm?

KRISH: Practice or skills growth. So if there’s a new technology, then making sure you have those skill sets and practices within the firm, so you can be ready, be there to help out and invest in the client. It’s funny because when I hear it from you, it makes a lot of sense. Because now when I look at it from an outside perspective, what’s my story, I understand why I’ve been struggling. Because most of my projects I deliver, I’m done, I’m moving on. But I think staying, growing the account actually really helps. And I need to focus more on that area as well. It amazes me that I already knew the answers, but it just didn’t come in my head before that these are the things that I need to focus on more. And like you said, I was focusing more on the nitty gritty and not on the big picture.

MURIEL WILKINS: So, I think what you’re seeing is that your experience has to reflect the areas that are important for firm growth. And that’s how you should be prioritizing where you’re spending your time, because that’s what will position you as somebody who can be a future contributor to the firms.

KRISH: Yeah. This clarity, like you said, I was struggling in the weeds to figure out, oh, maybe if I do this project well… I should probably start looking at it in more of a bigger picture and how does it contribute towards the overall firm growth, rather than just this project or just this thing that I do?

MURIEL WILKINS: Exactly, exactly. This is exactly it, when you talk about, “Oh, I’m doing this project,” that’s from your perspective. That’ll keep you as a great senior manager, because that’s what you’re expected to do as a senior manager. But it does nothing to position you as a partner. And so, the other thing that you’re highlighting is there’s a difference between sharing the result of your work and sharing the impact of your work.

KRISH: Yep. So result is very like, okay, I did this and this was the outcome, impact is this is how much it changed, like what did it impact outside? How did it increase the revenue of the client or their customers? How did it help them? Amplifying that overall result basically.

MURIEL WILKINS: Right. So result is, this is what happened. Impact is, and this is why it’s important. And so, even in what you’ve been articulating today, when you talk about what you’ve done with your project, et cetera, you tend to stop at the result. And so, you have to push yourself to what’s the impact? And if that impact could be amplified, how is that relevant, how is it important from the larger firm objectives? So, telling your story, telling your business case has to be grounded in what’s important for the overall firm?

KRISH: Okay, that helps a lot. I’m glad that I can revisit this again and again.

MURIEL WILKINS: Until you get so bored, you’re like, “I don’t want to hear Muriel anymore.” Yeah, start at the macro. Understand what the business objectives are, then you can start saying, “Okay, what am I doing? Am I aligning myself with those business objectives?” And if there are areas where you are, great. If there are areas where you’re not, then that’s where you need to do the work. And what you want to articulate for yourself is, “What are the leading indicators that demonstrate that I can eventually contribute at that partner level?” So if I ask you now, and we’re not role playing here, but if I ask you now, how will you help grow the firm in the future?

KRISH: I want to invest in areas, certain areas that I know that are capped currently in our skill set. Invest in our people, grow the people, and also help some of our clients grow in that area. Build a practice so we can go and propose, and show the value of where we can grow in those areas for our clients. So I would grow them in that area, in that way.

MURIEL WILKINS: All right. So, let’s take that as the foundation for your story. And we’re not going to get there today in terms of having a fully crafted story, but I’m just going to give you some, we’ll go through it so that you can walk away with some suggestions that you might want to incorporate. So, one suggestion I have for you is not only having your starting point in terms of thinking about the overall objectives of the firm. But when you actually start articulating it, meaning you’re talking to people about it, you want to even communicate it starting with the overall goals. So, what does that look like? If I were to ask you, “So Krish, what are you thinking about the future for yourself?” Or even if I don’t ask you, because you’re just going to tell people, you’re not going to wait to be asked, we’ll get there. You start your answer with, “When I think about what are the biggest contributions to firm growth, there are two areas I think of. One is client growth, and the other is people capabilities growth. So in terms of client growth, I see myself as an expert in X, Y, Z, that can help grow the revenue,” and you go deep into how you can do it. “And then from people capabilities growth, this is where I see I can add value, and here are examples of how I’ve done it, and my plan for how to do it in the future.” So it’s a top down, rather than a bottoms up.

KRISH: Yep, that helps a lot. I think this kind of sums it up a lot, about how you speak as an executive versus how you’re talking as a delivery leader, or not an executive.

MURIEL WILKINS: That’s right. That’s exactly it, you’ve got to switch your hat. You’re so used to wearing the project management hat, and imagine that’s like a little fedora, and now you’re wearing a sombrero. It’s a big sun hat, it’s broadened, so your perspective has to broaden to, “No, now I’m speaking about it, I’m making the link between what happens at the project level to how it contributes to the firm level. And then I’m able to show how I can make that leap from project to firm.” It’s not easy, it takes a lot of iteration to get there, but it’s possible.

KRISH: Yeah. I think it’s the mindset. The sooner I can change my mindset and start thinking about it in a big picture, in a big impact way. I think the sooner I’ll probably be able to articulate it a little better.

MURIEL WILKINS: Let’s stop here for a moment. “Krish” started the conversation by wanting to focus on how she tells her story so that she can get sponsors. But as our coaching discussion progressed, she realized that before she can tell the story that would position her for partnership, she has to shift her mindset to align with that goal. She has to think differently about what she brings to the table, get her head out of the weeds, and have more clarity on what she’s aiming for. Only then can she focus on taking action and asking for support.

MURIEL WILKINS: I would encourage you to take it from, there’s mindset and then there’s execution. And the execution is, I would start putting pen to paper. And it doesn’t matter what you write down, but start with, or whiteboard it. Here are the levers of growth for the firm, what does it look like for a partner to contribute to those levers? And now, oh, what does it look like for “Krish” to contribute to those levers? That’s future “Krish.” And where is current “Krish,” and where is she already demonstrating those things, and where does she still need to do some work? And if she still needs to do some work, what’s the action plan? So, first start with, you got to map it out. And then you can take it to, “Oh, okay. So how do I tell that story?” Well, “That story is here’s what I know what’s important for the business. Here’s what I’ve proven I can do that will contribute to the business, and how I plan to continue to contribute.” And if there are areas that you still need to strengthen, “Here’s how I’m going to strengthen those things, so that I’m ready to contribute at this level.”

KRISH: Okay, makes sense.

MURIEL WILKINS: So, mindset then execution is put pen to paper, map it out. And then it’s delivery, you’ve actually got to say it. And we already talked about saying it top down.

KRISH: Yes—

MURIEL WILKINS: …Yeah, in what way?

KRISH: Both in just getting clarity on what are the things that I’m missing? Because I’ve been really struggling with trying to figure out where my… I couldn’t figure out what my struggle was, because I don’t know where I’m lacking. I have the experience, I have the skill set. I’m like, why is it such a difficult task for me to convince anyone that this is my story? But I think when you put it this way, telling that top down story makes a lot of sense. I’ll definitely give that a try and see.

MURIEL WILKINS: Yeah, and you might want to try it out with some of your mentors. And tell them what you’re doing, and ask them for feedback. So, one of the things that you said earlier on, is that you have not necessarily gone out there and said, “I want to be partner.”

KRISH: Yeah. So initially I didn’t, but lately at least with my mentors, I’ve tried to make it clear that I want to make it to partner. But here’s the thing: make it to partner is one thing, setting like one year, two year, five year, that duration, I think I haven’t been more specific that in the next year or in the following year, that I want to make partner. And they’re like, “Oh, that’s fine. In five years, you’ll make it.”

MURIEL WILKINS: And so I would encourage you, and this highlights what we just talked about. I think the next step is for you to say, “Okay, if my goal is to make a partner in,” two, three, four years, whatever that trajectory is, “What does that action plan look like for me?” For you, for “Krish.” And so, why is that important? A, because then you know what you need to work on to get there, and B, it’s something you can actually take to your mentors and have them react to in two ways. They can react to it by saying, “I don’t know, I don’t think that’s really what’s going to get you there,” or “Yes, it is,” so in the actual content of your plan. The other way, the second way that they can react to it is whether or not they can help you in any of those areas. And you can ask, that’s where the ask comes in, “So this is what I’m doing.” So when you say, they’re like, “Oh yeah, that’s nice. Five years, you want to make partner. Hey, good luck.” The reason they’re responding that way, is because usually people don’t know how to help you until you tell them, “This is how you can help me.” So if they don’t know what your action plan is, it’s going to be very difficult. Every now and then you have the unicorn who lands, and is like, “I can help you,” but most times you’ve got to ask for it. You’ve got to advocate for yourself.

KRISH: Yeah. I need to learn how to advocate better for myself. I think I do it a little bit, but like you said, I don’t have a perfect clear map, or a plan on what are the areas that I need to actually seek help from? I have been generally seeking, asking help from my mentors on what should I do, where should I go? But I think I should have it more focused, and build a plan and map it out. That’ll probably help me and them.

MURIEL WILKINS: Yeah. I feel like you are coming to the table, going back to the Shark Tank analogy, you’re coming and asking for money. And then one of the sharks says, “What’s your plan?” and you’re like… Or they always ask, “Well, how do the economics work? What are your margins?” It’s like, ah…

KRISH: I’d be shut down in three seconds.

MURIEL WILKINS: So, I think for you going back to even taking this word story out of it, because I think that’s tripping you up a little bit, and thinking about it as your business case, what is your business case for this firm? Would make it much more practical, and tactical, and action-oriented, in a way that you could then translate into conversations that hopefully will then lead to you building your tribe, building that sponsorship.

KRISH: Okay.

MURIEL WILKINS: All right?

KRISH: Yep, thank you so much, Muriel. It was really, really helpful. Yeah, I didn’t know how far we’ll get in the short session, but it was incredible. Thank you for helping me.

MURIEL WILKINS: All right. Where’s your confidence level now, compared to when we first started?

KRISH: My confidence level is, it’s going up a little bit, you can see it rising. But I think as I start working towards the things you’ve told me, I’m sure I’ll probably be able to articulate my story, or my business case a little better. I do have a lot of homework to do I think, coming out of this.

MURIEL WILKINS: Yeah. And because I get the sense that your confidence level rises as you see results, I’m going to ask you, what is one thing you can commit to doing in the next week that will bring you closer to having your business case solidified for why you should be a partner?

KRISH: I think there’s two things: one, I need to find the business revenue growth areas. And the other one is building that map and action plan. I think those two will definitely help me, put me in that trajectory to work towards my goal better.

MURIEL WILKINS: Good, good, good. All right. Well listen, thank you so much, “Krish,” appreciate this conversation and I wish you the best of luck.

KRISH: Thank you. Thank you so much, it was a pleasure. It was really a pleasure talking to you, and getting that advice was really helpful.

MURIEL WILKINS: Sponsorship is such an important element of career progression, but it is not a passive endeavor. Like “Krish,” you have to put in the work. Know your business case and how it ties to your organization’s overall objectives. Share it with those who are in a position to advocate for you, and ask for their support. It takes focus and commitment, but with the right effort, it can pay off in dividends.

MURIEL WILKINS: That’s it for this episode of Coaching Real Leaders. Thanks to my producer, Mary Dooe, music composer, Brian Campbell, and the entire team at HBR. Much gratitude to the leaders who join me in these coaching conversations, and to you our listeners who share in their journeys. If you are dealing with a leadership challenge, I’d love to hear from you and possibly have you on the show. Apply at coachingrealleaders.com. And you can find me on LinkedIn, on Twitter @murielmwilkins, or on Instagram @coachmurielwilkins. If you love the show and learn from it, pay it forward. Share it with your friends, subscribe, leave a review. From HBR Presents, this is Muriel Wilkins.