The Difference Between a Mentor and a Sponsor
Having a mentor and a sponsor can be a game-changer as people grow and develop their skills. This is especially true in the complex dynamics of the contemporary workplace where everything is not always what it seems.
Despite the fact that many people consider the roles as mentors and as sponsors to be the same thing, they are markedly different and are rarely the same person.
Mentors have a practical wisdom and the experience to apply to problems and issues. They offer a perspective and a viewpoint that worked for them. When they have experience in the same organization, mentors become a critical resource to help mentees navigate the enterprise. They can also assist others in understanding how to interpret the unwritten code of an organization, and how to interpret the meaning of messages and actions.
While formal pairings of mentors and mentees has become popular in large organizations, most mentor relationships occur organically, when a less experienced person asks a potential mentor for advice and counsel regarding a gnarly problem.
If mentors guide, then sponsors advocate.
The idea of sponsorship is one where a more experienced or senior leader helps a team member succeed. The activities of a sponsor include:
involvement in key assignments and initiatives
In other words, a sponsor lifts a team member up, gives them exposure, and ensures their commercial success. Whereas the diverse talent in an organization benefits greatly from mentorship and sponsorship, the more coveted relationship for talent at risk is provided by sponsorship.
Mentors talk with you about your career.
Sponsors talk about you to advance your career.
Both are essential to reach your organizational potential. Collect one of each.