No matter how productive a team's performance, its real impact depends on whether higher-ups will listen. That's why you need to recruit a team advisor to make sure your group's work pays off, especially in a large, far-flung organization.
You may refer to your team advisor as a team sponsor, mentor or coach. The terms are interchangeable, but the role is well defined: The advisor champions the team among your organization's senior executives and ensures that they consider the group's input or findings.
The team advisor does not actively participate in the group's regular meetings. Instead, the advisor stays in contact with the team leader to get progress reports. If the team needs political or financial support to achieve its goals, the advisor can step in and provide it.
The advisor should have a vested interest in the team's success. For example, a group exploring relocating an office may have as its sponsor the senior vice president of human resources (who knows that workplace relocations can affect staffing).
As the team leader, ally yourself with an advisor before the group's first meeting. Find a sponsor who wields influence throughout your organization. Assure the sponsor that he or she will not need to attend meetings and that you will provide frequent updates. Just make sure your internal champion agrees to intervene on the team's behalf as necessary.
You can tell team members about the sponsor's role, but make sure they don't expect too much from their champion. Some groups grow dependent on their VIP "friend" to get them out of jams and fund all their half-baked proposals.
The advisor can strengthen a team's impact but cannot solve its everyday problems. That's your job as the leader.
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