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Difference Between Mentoring, Coaching & Sponsorship

How do you know which one you need—and can you have more than one?



One of the frequent questions we receive at our benchmarking debriefs is:

"What is the difference between mentoring, coaching and sponsorship?"

We've prepared a primer for you with the help of Sodexo, No. 5 on DiversityInc's Top 50 list and a company we frequently use to illustrate an effective, results-oriented mentoring program.


Mentor: "Talking with you"

Relationship between two people for the purpose of developing themselves or their careers in navigating the workplace or a particular field. More often than that, the relationships are mutually beneficial, with both partners learning in a purposeful way and benefiting from their relationship in sharing knowledge and experience. A mentor can be within or outside of an organization, and mentoring is more driven by the mentees identifying needs of their own.

Coach: "Talking to you"

Instructional, often with a particular goal or focus, such as developing technical or soft skills or can be used as a way to train someone on a discrete task or series of tasks. A coach, via assessments, tools and methodologies, identifies what the person needs and an action plan.

Sponsor: "Talking about you"

A sponsor, usually someone at a more senior level and/or an individual with strong influence within an organization, assists a protégé in gaining visibility for particular assignments, promotions or positions. The role is often recognized as having a career, job or opportunity-related purpose with some inherent degree or accountability on the sponsor's part. A sponsor has to be within an organization.

(Related articles: Mentors vs. Sponsors: How Each Can Help and Women Need Lots of Sponsors, Mentors.)


The Differences Between Mentoring and Sponsorship

Randy Cobb, Director, Diversity & Inclusion, Southern Company and Matthew Hanzlik, Program Manager, Diversity & Inclusion, Nielsen talk about the differences between mentoring and sponsoring and give insights into how their companies leverage each.


To view/download a PDF of the presentation click here.

To access a PDF of this presentation, click here.

04:18 – 05:09: Southern Company Introduction

05:09 – 07:12: Career Development and Empowerment

07:12 – 09:43: Who is My Career Manager

09:43 – 15:03: What is a Mentor, What are the Benefits

15:03 – 16:57: What Successful Mentoring Looks Like

16:57 – 21:29: What is a Sponsor, What to Look For in a Sponsor

21:29 – 22:52: Quick Reference on the Differences Between Mentoring and Sponsorship

22:52 – 26:32: Mentoring and Sponsorship Programs at Southern Company

27:05 – 29:50: Nielsen Introduction, Approach to D&I

29:50 – 33:10: How Nielsen Develops and Accelerates Talent

33:10 – 41:09: Nielsen's Diverse Leadership Network, Results

41:09 – 44:31: Nielsen's Senior Leader Sponsorship Program, Results

44:31 – 50:10: Keys to Success

50:10 – 59:12: Q&A

Former TIAA SVP and CHRO Skip Spriggs discusses mentorship and sponsorship, how mentors helped him in his career and provides, how mentees should drive the relationship and gives important attributes to becoming a high potential.

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Different Stages of Talent Development

Johnson & Johnson's Chief Diversity Officer Wanda Hope gives an overview of J&J's talent development programs, including unconscious bias training, development through ERGs, relationship capital and sponsorship for high potentials.



• 00:51 – Preview of New Mentoring Research From DiversityInc

• 05:58 – Wanda Hope's J&J Journey

• 07:12 – J&J's Credo, Diversity & Inclusion at J&J

• 13:03 – Talent Development and How J&J Engages Its Employees

• 16:27 – Relationship Capital: Networking, Mentoring, Sponsorship

• 28:47 – Unconscious Bias

• 31:31 – Employee Resource Groups

• 35:53 – Q&A: How Do People Get Into the Signature Leadership Program?

• 37:05 – Q&A: Do You Track Managers As They Go Through The Different Stages of Mentoring?

• 38:38 – Q&A: Is There Unconscious Bias Training in All of Your Mentoring Programs?

• 40:40 – Q&A: Can You Talk About Your Accelerated Leadership Development Programs for Women of Color and Men of Color?

• 47: 57 – Q&A: Does Your Succession Planning Process Include A Component of Your Sponsorship Program?

Mentoring — Keeping New Managers Engaged

Accenture, Hilton and GM execs discuss successful ways to make mentoring programs successful.

Through the Top 50 data, we’ve seen a number of companies that increase in Top 50 rank place more emphasis on mentoring programs to ensure key talent is developed equitably and retained.

This panel discussion from the 2017 DiversityInc Top 50 Learning Sessions features three of those companies. Accenture, General Motors and Hilton, Inc. have brought innovation to their mentoring programs to ensure they achieve desired results. All three companies give insight into how their innovating mentoring.


• Damian Rivera, Managing Director, Resources Utilities Practice, Accenture

• Ken Barrett, Global Chief Diversity Officer, General Motors

• Laura Fuentes, SVP, Talent, Rewards, Diversity & Inclusion, Hilton Inc.

• Moderator: Carolynn Johnson, COO, DiversityInc

Part II: What Differentiates the DiversityInc Top 10 From the Rest of the Top 50 in One Chart

The Top 10 promoted 25.4 percent more Black, Latino and Asian managers and 14 percent more women managers than companies ranked 11-50.


This is the second article in a three-part series.

Mentoring Participation

In the first article of this series, we saw how the Top 10 is significantly outperforming companies ranked 11-50 in Talent Pipeline. The Top 10 outperformed companies ranked 11-50 in representation of Blacks, Latinos, Asians and women in the workforce, management and 10 percent highest paid.

Having a strong, diverse pipeline is critical, but retaining that pipeline is even more important. One way to ensure you keep your diverse pipeline in tact is to develop it. Talent Development is an area in the Top 50 survey in which we measure best practices such as mentoring and employee resource groups (ERGs), along with promotions into and throughout management.

On average, the Top 10 ranked 32.6 spots higher in Talent Development than companies ranked 11-50. The Top 10 promoted 25.4 percent more Black, Latino and Asian managers and 14 percent more women managers than companies ranked 11-50.

One explanation for why the Top 10 is able to promote more Black, Latino, Asian and women managers than other companies lies in their robust approach to mentoring. The Top 10 has over 50 percent more managers participate in its mentoring programs than companies ranked 11-50. Over the years, DiversityInc Top 50 data has consistently shown that companies with higher management participation rates in mentoring outperform others in promotions of Black, Latino, Asian and women managers.

To make their mentoring programs effective, the Top 10 mandate high participation from the top 3 management levels of the organization, including the executive diversity council. To put it plainly, it has to start at the top. If there isn't strong mentoring participation from the executive diversity council, the body that sets D&I strategy and holds people accountable for results, others in the organization won't take the mentoring programs seriously and mentoring will be ineffective. On average, the Top 10 has 48 percent more of its executive diversity council participate in mentoring than companies ranked 11-50.

The same concept applies to managers in the top 3 levels. The Top 10 has 40 percent more managers in the top 3 levels participating in mentoring than companies ranked 11-50. If senior leaders they aren't visible in mentoring, others won't think the programs are effective and worthwhile. The Top 10 knows this very well, and that is why 7 of the Top 15 companies for mentoring are in the Top 10.

DiversityInc Gender Parity Analysis

DiversityInc’s analysis on gender parity found that utilization of three critical best practices leads companies to gender parity quicker than non-utilization.


DiversityInc conducted analysis to measure how utilization of best practices such as executive diversity councils, mentoring and sponsorship impact progress towards gender parity in senior management. It found that these best practices were critical to making progress in gender parity in senior management.

To download a PDF version click the image below.

AT&T Hello Lab Introduces Diversity-Focused Mentorship Program

Academy Award winners Octavia Spencer and Common are among mentors to rising talent.

AT&T is No. 3 on the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies list

AT&T Hello Lab, a collection of original entertainment created by, for and with Millennial and Gen Z audiences, has launched its mentorship program.

It’s a new initiative that brings together entertainment industry leaders with aspiring filmmakers from diverse backgrounds as they create their signature work. The five filmmakers will debut their short films on DIRECTV NOW in the fourth quarter of 2017.  DIRECTV NOW gives you your favorite premium TV and made-for-digital video content with no annual contracts, set-top boxes or installation.

The 2017 AT&T Hello Lab mentors include:

  • Academy Award Winner Octavia Spencer (Best Supporting Actress, The Help, 2012)
  • Academy Award Winner Common (Best Original Song, Selma, 2014)
  • Rick Famuyiwa (director, Dope, Confirmation)
  • Desiree Akhavan (director/actress, Appropriate Behavior)
  • Nina Yang Bongiovi (producer, Fruitvale Station)

In addition, each filmmaker will be supported by a community of industry advisors, including studio and production company executives, agents and attorneys. Each of these mentors have overcome barriers to make important projects that touch on an impressive range of issues and narratives as people of color, LGBTQ community members and women.

“There are a lot of film programs out there designed to empower young filmmakers. But the word ’empower’ is a sort of a catch-all, isn’t it? What I love about this program is that it’s tactical. It’s enabling young filmmakers to make actual, physical work. It’s giving them the first crucial part of their reel,” asserts Octavia Spencer, who is mentoring Gabrielle Shepard in tandem with Mike Jackson, who is a partner at John Legend’s Get Lifted Film Co.

AT&T Hello Lab will help each filmmaker create a high production quality signature film and provide support as they break into the entertainment industry. Advisers and mentors will counsel the filmmakers on pitching their work, managing budgets, and directing character-driven narratives. The shorts will all celebrate young adults and all tell a unique “coming of age” tale.

“I wanted to be a part of this program because opportunity is everything.  Connecting with young filmmakers, such as Nefertite Nguvu, is an honor. It’s the young and gifted visionaries who take the arts to levels we haven’t seen. I am blessed to have the career that I do and hope to be able to support and inspire her artistic vision and goals through AT&T Hello Lab Mentorship Program,” says Common, who is mentoring filmmaker Nefertite Nguvu alongside Shelby Stone, the president of production at his company Freedom Road Productions.

“Nurturing the next generation of creative minds is crucial for the entertainment industry,” said Valerie Vargas, senior vice president – advertising and Creator Lab, AT&T. “The AT&T Hello Lab Mentorship Program gives voice to filmmakers that may otherwise be silenced, and we can’t wait to see the ideas this unique group of creators develop.”

“We’re beyond humbled to join arms with these industry leaders who have catalyzed change and believe in the importance of supporting and amplifying new voices. The excitement around the films coming from the teams at AT&T and Fullscreen, as well as the mentors, advisors and mentees, is palpable. There is no doubt that this will lead to exciting, important and powerful work,” says Billy Parks, executive producer and EVP of Otter Media.

Fullscreen Media, a next-generation entertainment company, is majority owned by Otter Media, a partnership between AT&T and The Chernin Group.

Along with their one-on-one mentors, the mentees will receive meaningful guidance from a group of established industry advisors who include Judy McGrath (Founder & President, Astronauts Wanted), Mike Jackson (Co-Founder, Get Lifted), Cameron Mitchell (Agent, CAA), Bianca Levin (Partner, Gang, Tyre, Ramer & Brown), Ivana Lombardi (SVP, Film, Chernin Group), Kevin Iwashina (CEO and Founder of Preferred Content), Roberta Marie Munroe (Producer, Director, Writer), Brickson Diamond (Founder, The Blackhouse Foundation), Emily Best (CEO and Founder, Seed&Spark), Damian Pelliccione (CEO and Founder, REVRY) and James Lopez (Head of Motion Pictures, Will Packer Productions).

Program mentees include:

  • Neil Paik (filmmaker)
  • Matthew Castellanos (filmmaker)
  • Nefertite Nguvu (filmmaker)
  • Gabrielle Shephard (filmmaker)
  • Sara Shaw (editor/director)

Sodexo's Gerri Mason Hall on Sponsorship and Mentors

Gerri Mason Hall, SVP & chief human resources officer, North America, at Sodexo, sat down with DiversityInc to share her thoughts on sponsorship and mentors.


Gerri Mason Hall, SVP & chief human resources officer, North America, at Sodexo, sat down with DiversityInc to share her thoughts on sponsorship and mentors.

Throughout her 10-year career with Sodexo (No. 6 on the 2016 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list), Gerri Mason Hall, SVP & chief human resources officer, North America, has had numerous mentors and sponsors — both of which she considers important to her career success.

Mason Hall sat down with DiversityInc and explained why sponsorship and mentoring relationships should primarily be driven by the sponsee and mentee, respectively, and what their responsibilities are for making the relationship as beneficial as possible. She also emphasized the importance of diversity in these relationships and how that plays a key role for both employees.

“Be very open to the differences that you can benefit from,” Mason Hall said.

View the full video below.


Career Advice on Handling Unconscious Bias

Executives from TD Bank and Monsanto collaborate to help us understand what unconscious bias is, how and why it exists, and how to address it from both an individual and organizational standpoint. The webinar concludes with almost 20 minutes of Q&A.


How Executive Diversity Councils Yield Talent Results

Sodexo's Rolddy Leyva, VP, Global Diversity & Inclusion, talks about how his company's Diversity Leadership Council sets strategic priorities & performance expectations for D&I at the U.S. regional level and drives accountability for progress.