by Robert Dilts
Before Coaching Change at deep levels of being and thinking, such as values and identity are promoted by “sponsorship.” With respect to identity and values, “sponsorship” involves awakening and safeguarding potential within others. It involves the commitment to the promotion of something that is already within a person but isn’t being manifested to its fullest capacity. The coach as sponsor provides a context, contacts and resources that promotes the individual’s development and performance. Effective sponsoring can be one of a coaches most powerful skills. Stephen Gilligan (1997) has identified a number of principles and skills of positive or ‘therapeutic sponsorship’. From Gilligan’s perspective, a sponsor helps others not so much by doing anything in particular. Rather, sponsors transform others by first recognizing or seeing something latent in them, and then by being there for them as a kind of reference point.
The effects of sponsorship can last many years. As an example, one of Tim Hallbom’s clients identified a memory of being sponsored as one of his most powerful resources When he was three years old, his father was washing the car as he rode his little meal pedal bike around and around the car. As he rode his father watched, smiling and really seeing him. It was a non-verbal acknowledgement for him as a person. It gave him a sense of worth and was an ongoing reminder that he was approved of as a person. Later, even as an adult, when he launched a new project, this memory would flash through his mind and give him confidence.
According to Gilligan, the outcomes of positive sponsorship are to “awaken awareness of self and of the world, and to introduce skills and traditions to develop ‘self-in-world’ and ‘world-in-self’.” Gilligan defines a number of specific skills associated with ‘therapeutic sponsorship’ these can be mapped across to the context of life coaching and executive coaching as well. Some of these skills include:
- Internal congruence
- Connecting with the other
- Curiosity and Receptivity
- Proper naming
- Identifying and challenging self-negating influences
Effective sponsorship involves supplying other perspectives that allow people to see the positive side of their values and behavior. This involves helping the other person recognize the needs, intention, consequences and assumptions related to a particular value. To do this a sponsor needs to stay creative and to periodically “stand in the shoes” of the other. In order to establish values and identity it is important to remember to, “Find a sponsor, and be a sponsor.” Sponsorship cannot be imposed on people. People must seek and accept sponsorship to some degree. It is also possible to engage in one’s own “self-sponsorship.” This can be done by establishing personal and professional practices, making the commitment to allocate time to them, and then hold oneself accountable for putting them into action.
Together with Gilligan, Robert Dilts has been exploring the development of a ‘sponsorship toolbox’, which can facilitate the development of effective sponsorship. Applying principles and methods of NLP, Dilts has explored how to apply the skills of sponsorship to coaching through techniques such as:
- The Values Audit
- Listening Partnerships
- Reframing Self-Criticism
- Generative Sponsorship and Group Sponsorship