What happens if my sponsor leaves my organization, where do I begin to look for another sponsor?
First of all J., as you get more and more senior, it is important that you have 2 or 3 sponsors for exactly the reason that your primary sponsor, could leave the organization and you are uncovered. If your primary sponsor leaves the organization, you can still use the power of their relationship, their capital, to get a warm introduction to a new potential sponsor.
The conversation goes like this: (let’s call your sponsor, Tim), “Tim you have been an incredible sponsor for me over the past ____ (years/months) and I greatly value how you have used your capital and your influence to shepard me through the day to day political landscape and through these last two promotions. Your leaving the organization is a loss to us as an organization, but most importantly to me as a professional. You and I both know that it is important for me to have a sponsor for my continued success. I would like to get your thoughts about who you think might be able and interested in playing that role for me. Would you be willing to make a “warm” call for me to explore the idea and then I will follow up?”
It is important to remember that just because your sponsor may be leaving an organization does not mean that they lose all of their political capital or influence within that organization (unless they are leaving because of extremely negative circumstances). You want to take full advantage of their reach within the organization while they are still there and even immediately after they leave. Hopefully, as in this case, Tim will call someone he trusts and someone who he knows has the power to help you and say, “J is one of the people that I think is a star/strong player/up and coming key player and I would like for you to look out for him/her. He/She will need your help, as I am leaving and I trust that you will help to keep them on a good trajectory. He/she won’t let you down; they are a good use of your capital.”
After that call has been made (within a week), you should follow up and seek to get on that person’s calendar to begin a relationship. Go to that meeting prepared to talk about your history at the company, focusing more on what your current responsibilities are and where you are seeking to move next. You also want to spend approximately a third to one half of the conversation talking about your new sponsor and what objectives or challenges are on his/her agenda because you would like to ideally find a way to be helpful to them as part of your new relationship. Lastly, you should follow up with Tim after the first 2 or 3 meetings that you have with your new sponsor to let him know how the relationship is progressing. The purpose of this is three-fold: 1) you want to maintain a relationship with Tim even though he is no longer at your firm, he is a useful member of your network; 2) you want Tim to confirm that this sponsor was a good choice; 3) and lastly if the relationship is not developing, you want Tim to know sooner rather than later, so that he might be able to redirect you to someone else if possible.