Executive Sponsorship

Provide executives with the skills and mindset to sponsor underrepresented leaders to enhance the leadership pipeline.

Drive Inclusive Change at Your Organization Through a Comprehensive Sponsorship Initiative Led by Experts


Do you have a formalized strategy to develop and advance women and other underrepresented groups (URPs) through your leadership ranks?

As organizations strive to reach gender parity and increase the number of underrepresented groups in their leadership ranks, executives have an essential role to play. The pandemic both created and increased the complexity of many talent challenges, including women leaving the workforce in unprecedented numbers, leaving large gaps in the talent pipeline at a time when organizations need strong and agile leadership.

Now is the time to address the challenge of leadership underrepresentation—and executives need to act as sponsors to key talent populations.

Linkage’s Executive Sponsorship Program is designed to provide executives with the skills and mindset to sponsor underrepresented leaders to enhance the leadership pipeline. Here’s how it works: Choose from three levels of engagement—Cornerstone 1, 2 or 3—which serve up a variety of ways to engage, educate and empower your executive sponsors and sponsored leaders, including a success guide, consultant-led sessions, coaching engagements and support for your internal program managers.

This program combines expert consulting and metrics, along with dynamic solutions designed to engage executives in skill-building, coaching and facilitated collaboration sessions to empower them to problem solve and make the most of the organization’s sponsorship initiative.

Organizations with more diverse leadership outperform the competition—and the culture of inclusion they create supports a thriving workforce. Linkage’s research on diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace finds that effective executive involvement in the form of sponsorship is a critical lever for organizations looking to achieve success.

Your executive leaders must be able to identify, support, engage and advance diverse employees and teams to support the future of your organization—and the ability to be an exemplary executive sponsor can be learned. Most executives either do not currently possess these skills or are helping someone with their career trajectory but in an informal way, without considering which leader candidate should best be supported. The goal of this program is to empower executives to connect with someone different from them, and to serve as an organizational changemaker—giving their sponsored leader guidance, access and opportunities to advance.

The sponsored leaders have responsibilities as well—they are expected to perform effectively, and share openly and be a formidable representative of their sponsor. None of this can happen without a strong strategy and support system: Give your executive sponsors and sponsored leaders the support they need to achieve results.

Executive sponsorship focuses on a process to enable future leaders to assume great responsibility through partnership with current executives. The executives you engage through this program will go on to provide championship and opportunity for their sponsored leaders, leveraging their own reputations and granting visibility to the leader. The impact is huge—organizations who engage in strategic executive sponsorship initiatives drive higher retention of diverse leaders and meaningfully build a diverse pipeline to support key DE&I goals and exceed benchmarks.

Linkage’s Executive Sponsorship program is insight backed and uses Linkage’s distinct thinking to build a relationship of trust that results in growth and success, including:

  • How to connect with and sponsor someone different from you
  • How to utilize your Compassionate Center to enhance the relationship
  • Redesigning Inclusion: The need to recognize and develop “Superpowers” for rising leaders
  • Advancing Women Leaders: Mastering the Inner Critic & the 7 Hurdles to Advancement
  • A communications model to empower, enhance connection and bridge difference—The SEE Model (Stop, Explore, Empower)


What’s Included

  • Choose between three levels of engagement to best fit your organizational needs: Cornerstone 1, Cornerstone 2 or Cornerstone 3
  • Executive Sponsorship Success Guide for program managers

Three Levels of Engagement to Choose From

Linkage’s Executive Sponsorship program gives organizations the flexibility to choose from three levels of support—from introductory to comprehensive—depending on your DE&I goals and internal support needs.

Cornerstone 1 — This engagement is designed for organizations looking for a sponsorship experience focused on the executives and includes the following:


Executive Sponsorship Guide (Designed for Internal Sponsorship Program Owner)

This guide and accompanying session gives access to the planning resources you need to make the program a success.

The guide includes:

  • Communication planning templates for the executive sponsors and sponsored leaders
  • Metrics, requirements and meeting goals
  • Program timeline and cadence recommendations
  • Recommendations on how to:
    • – Choose sponsored leaders, create goals and more
    • – Match executive sponsors and sponsored leaders
    • – Address challenges


Excellence in Sponsorship Sessions (Three, 2-Hour Sessions)

These sessions are designed to empower your executive sponsors to fully understand and participate in the Executive Sponsorship sessions at the highest levels and are led by an expert Linkage consultant. Our Customer Success Team configures the sessions and integrates the organization’s language about leadership.

These three sessions include:

Excellence in Sponsorship Session 1 | Becoming an Executive Sponsor

During this session, we will:

  • Discuss expectations and outcomes of the program
  • Develop an understanding of what sponsorship is, how to be a sponsor and why it is important to the organization
  • Learn to connect from your Compassionate Center to enhance the sponsor relationship


Excellence in Sponsorship Session 2 | Creating Inclusive Relationships

During this session, we will:

  • Discuss how inclusion impacts sponsorship
  • Discover why redesigning inclusion is important
  • Develop an understanding of the challenges of advancement for underrepresented populations


Excellence in Sponsorship Session 3 | Developing Executive Superpowers in Leaders

During this session, we will:

  • Learn how to sponsor someone very different from you
  • Learn to incorporate the most important drivers of inclusion using the SEE model, including:
    • – Leading inclusive meetings
    • – Uncovering and honoring the Superpowers of leaders


Discussion on Sponsorship Challenges (Two, 90-minute sessions with Executive Sponsors)

During these Linkage-facilitated sessions with your organization’s executive sponsors, we will address real-time learnings, answer questions, advise on specific scenarios and address challenges they are facing. Recommended timing: Once the sponsors have met with the leaders and have completed the three webinars, the first discussion takes place. Then, after a few weeks of the program, the second discussion takes place.

Cornerstone 2 — This engagement is designed for organizations looking for an intermediate sponsorship experience, primarily focused on the executives and an avenue to bring together the sponsors and leaders. This includes all the benefits of Cornerstone 1 engagement, plus the following:


Kickoff Sponsorship Collaboration Session (2 hours for Executive Sponsors and Sponsored Leaders)

Bring your sponsored leaders and executive sponsors together for a kickoff celebration and collaboration session. This special introductory session is designed to engage and excite, and empowers participants in the program to get to know one another, their Linkage consultant, and the initiative.

During this session, we will cover:

  • What is sponsorship and why is it important?
  • What change will this bring to your organization?
  • How do you participate in the relationship to ensure success for both sides?
  • What to expect in the relationship and the timeline


Sponsorship Collaboration Conversations (Three sessions, 1 hour each for Executive Sponsors and Sponsored Leaders)

Bring your executive sponsors and sponsored leaders together for one-hour, joint discussion sessions, facilitated by a Linkage consultant. These conversations are designed to further the sponsor relationship, set expectations and deepen the commitment to the program.


Executive Coaching for Sponsorship Success (Three sessions)

Give your executive sponsors access to the support they need through an executive consulting engagement. Each executive sponsor will be paired with an expert Linkage Executive Coach who will meet with them privately for three, one-on-one, one-hour executive coaching sessions.

Cornerstone 3 — This engagement is designed for organizations looking for an advanced and comprehensive sponsorship experience and includes all the benefits of Cornerstone 1+2 engagement, plus the following enhanced development of sponsored leaders, as well as additional support for your internal program manager:


Excellence in Advancement for Leaders (2 hours for Sponsored Leaders)

Further engage your sponsored leaders through additional group sessions focused on key topics—including the critical challenges to advancement and how to overcome them—and their role in the sponsorship partnership.


Program Manager Coaching (Three, 1-hour sessions for Sponsorship Program Managers)

Set your internal team up for success by giving them access to scheduled coaching sessions designed for program managers. Experience three, one-hour sessions designed to empower sponsorship program managers to gain expert insight on critical topics, including sponsor matching, progress reports and benchmarking, and choosing sponsored leader candidates.


Leadership Coaching for Advancement Success (3 hours for Sponsored Leaders)

Give your sponsored leaders access to the support they need through an executive consulting engagement. Each sponsored leader will be paired with an expert Linkage executive coach who will meet with them privately for three, one-on-one, one-hour executive coaching sessions.

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