Difference Between Mentoring, Coaching & Sponsorship


The Difference Between Mentoring, Coaching & SponsorshipOne 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.)


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