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Double Your Investment in Work Relationships During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Chika Anyasodiké

On March 11, 2020 the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 coronavirus a pandemic, officially elevating the disease to a worldwide issue. All countries, all people. Since then, each of us have faced unprecedented and accelerated changes in our daily lives and work. Analysts and researchers have projected disruption in the workplace due to technology and changing attitudes about remote work, but no one imagined that the future would become the present so soon. Very few organizations are prepared to handle the logistics, let alone the impact this will have on the relationships of employees, managers and organizational leaders.

Generosity in a time of crisis is a sign of good character and the COVID-19 pandemic only expands the good we can do for one another. But money or time aren’t the only ways we can serve those in our communities and workplace. There’s another key asset that many of us in the workforce can give, even in these shaky times: social capital. Social capital is broadly defined as the positive outcome of human interaction like the exchange or gifting of ideas, information, and opportunities. We aren’t limited in these exchanges while working from home and social investments may be more valuable than ever.

Here’s one thing you can do when you’re ready to give: sponsorship. Sponsorship involves an organizational leader or manager (sponsor) using their influence to advocate for the success of a more junior employee (protégé). This might sound like mentorship, but there’s a distinct difference between the two. Mentors lend an ear and give tough advice to mentees because they’ve been there and done that. Sponsors use their relationships and reputation to ensure their protégé is recognized by the right people.

Mentors invest their time, sponsors invest their influence.

The sponsor’s journey looks like this:

Select top-performers from more junior ranks of the organization (or performers from outside your work who you feel comfortable recommending)

Plug protégés into meaningful projects to build on their skillset

Endorse protégé’s work and make valuable introductions to key power players

Advocate for their protégé’s career success behind closed doors (where the decision makers are)

You might not spot your company’s next high-potential at a company happy hour, but taking time to invest in the long-term career of others is always meaningful. Getting involved and sponsoring someone else gives you the chance to flex muscles that could lie dormant during this time of crisis: empathy, embracing positive differences, and prioritizing inclusivity while navigating a change.

To learn more about how you can apply sponsorship as a leader, check out our Content Anytime Leadership & Management subscription and maximize your leadership’s potential to spot, cultivate, and surface your best talent.

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