Mentorship vs. Coaching vs. Sponsorship - Finally Explained


Growing and developing employees is unquestionably a top priority for managers and people leaders. But do they need to be mentored, coached, or sponsored?


While these terms are often used interchangeably, in reality they mean and imply different things. 


First of all, mentors, coaches, and sponsors all act with the goal of helping people progress in their career. However, they do it in a slightly different way. 


“A coach talks to you, a mentor talks with you, and a sponsor talks about you.”


As a mentee, understanding this distinction is crucial to seek the right guidance from someone and, as a mentor, it's essential to know which kind of support you want to provide to others. However, nothing stops you from balancing all roles and being a mentor, a coach, and a sponsor at the same time!


Let’s dive into the specific similarities and differences.




A mentor is usually a professional who has more experience than their mentees and is a few steps ahead in their career. A good mentor offers guidance, stories, and advice based on their lived experience to help mentees navigate their own journey while increasing their chances of success. Usually, to be as relevant as possible and facilitate the transfer of knowledge, mentors come from a similar industry, geography or career background. In terms of specific support, mentoring relationships benefit mentees by providing direct feedback, advice, and practical solutions to day-to-day challenges.


A friend’s job is to remind you of how far you have come, a mentor’s job is to remind you of how far you have to go - Jay Shetty, Award-winning storyteller


Something that is often underestimated is how mentoring relationships also benefit the mentors. In fact, many report developing communication skills and gaining a personal sense of satisfaction from helping their mentees. Additionally, mentors get the unique chance to reflect on their own path, grow their leadership equity and ultimately, advance their own careers by investing their time into growing someone else. So remember, mentoring relationships are absolutely two-way streets!


If you are a manager or people leader looking to improve your mentoring skills and get Certified in the process, check out the Mentorship Moment platform to discover how you can become an even more epic and effective mentor.




A coach is usually someone who asks powerful questions to people so that they can come up with the answers themselves. In fact, true coaching is questioning someone based on the belief they have all the answers they need inside themselves, and the only things blocking them are their limiting beliefs.


“Probably my best quality as a coach is that I ask a lot of challenging questions and let the person come up with the answer.” - Phil Dixon, Professional coach


Overall, coaching tends to be more holistic by encompassing all areas of life and the person as a whole, even though mentoring and sponsoring can go deep too when necessary. Coaches often provide less "advice" and more impartial, non judgmental feedback which should be taken as constructive criticism for achieving better results. After a conversation with a coach, a person should be able to clearly identify the obstacles they need to overcome in order to get to the next level.


“Coaching is unlocking people’s potential to maximise their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.” - John Whitmore, Pioneer of the executive coaching industry


Unlike mentorship, coaching tends to be a one-sided relationship, where the coach is usually contracted or paid to support the employee over a set period of time. Typically, it involves a shorter term relationship with defined start/end dates and it may be part of a larger leadership program. In workplaces, business coaching is often used to help employees go from good to great or to help them in a specific performance task, area, or role.


We have noticed a rise in demand for coaches recently, that’s why Mentorship Moment provides practical coaching tools and exercises on-demand to help aspiring coaches uplevel their abilities.




A sponsor is usually a senior stakeholder with solid connections, a great network, and social equity. A sponsor is willing to use their reputation and credibility in service of their protege. When compared to mentors, sponsors are more invested in their proteges as they take bigger personal risks to champion them. In fact, sponsors endorse proteges directly, using their influence, power, and networking to help give them exposure to better career opportunities.


“Sponsorship is about putting your name and reputation on the line for someone else. It could be as simple as recommending someone for a new role, yet it's one of the most powerful cultural tools any organization has.” - Lynne Doughtie, CEO of KPMG


Sponsorships tend to be long-term relationships as trust and credibility builds over time. Like mentorships, they are usually two-way relationships. In fact, by investing in the next generation of top talent and helping them move up the ranks, sponsors grow their own leadership equity. As founder of Desa Global Leadership and Mentorship Moment, Tania Desa teaches us that many times a mentor will also transform into a sponsor. In fact - she says - “this is the perfect way to seek out and build sponsors as they must first witness someone’s brilliance and believe in their potential. After all, they are using their own social capital when they advocate for someone”.


Sponsorship can also play a crucial role in narrowing the advancement gap women and underrepresented minorities face. In today’s working world, C-Suite continues to be male dominated, so it's key to make inclusion a top priority. Intentional actions such as fostering talent development through sponsorship can ensure a more inclusive work environment now and for future generations.


In summary:



Are you ready to up-level your mentoring, coaching, and/or sponsorship relationships? Look no further. Mentorship Moment offers actionable tools, including step-by-step discussion guides and coaching exercises, so you can focus on the success of your mentees. Reach out to us as we would love to support you.


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