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What’s The Difference Between A Mentor, A Sponsor And A Coach?

Something that I explain to a lot of people I help with career development and advise on is the difference between a mentor, a sponsor and a coach.

These all have very different characteristics and offer different services to you and for you.

The question some people ask me is,

Q: Do I need a mentor or a coach?

Often the answer is helping them to find a sponsor.

Other times it is helping someone know it is time to step up and invest in a coach as a mentor or another mentor will not help them to improve key skills and professional develop quick enough.

Tips & Explainers:

Tip 1: Actively seek self-improvement and build your support network around you.

Tip 2: Know the difference –

the difference between a mentor a sponsor and a coach
Click the table to enlarge or scroll down to the notion table at the bottom of the post


  • A supporter of you, mentors will collaborate and develop soft skills (and encourage) hard skills without hard set deadlines
  • Informal typically
  • Can be internal and external
  • Typically Unpaid
  • Ideal set up – 1 x Ongoing, 2 Long Term Mentors
  • Mentors work best with a two-way relationship. Feedback is key to helping the mentor understand progress and hearing about your development
  • Hint To Win: Mentee keeps your mentors regularly up to date with progress
  • Mentors are great throughout your career, particularly through the middle of your career


  • Believes in you, sponsors will help put you forward for opportunities, and your sponsor can put their own reputation on the line for you
  • Informal typically
  • Typically an internal sponsor – however importantly you can have an external sponsor who will push you forward and put you up for opportunities
  • Ideal set up – 1 x Ongoing. Try to gain and keep in contact with as many sponsors as you can
  • Sponsors are taking a leap of faith and putting their own reputation on the line for the people they sponsor/co-sign.
  • Hint To Win: Ensure you treat this relationship as a high priority.
  • Sponsors are great when you feel like your career needs a change and their network will help you meet the right decision-makers


  • Will coach (teach you) specific skills and identify gaps to work on. Tangible short-term goals with specific outcomes with mid and long-term results
  • Formal set up
  • Typically you can have internal & external coaches. External will be outside of the broader issues and coach you through situations and develop skills that internal coaches may not
  • Coaches are paid
  • Ideal set up – 1 x skill-based coach. Consider: Like many athletes in sports, particularly in mixed martial arts consider creating a great set of coaches based on your skills
  • The best coaches are always looking to improve your skills and invest a great deal of time looking for insights and links to help you improve. The best coaches will notice the change and the smallest skill improvements.
  • Hint To Win: Ensure you keep your coaches updated and provide feedback.
  • Coaches are great throughout your career, often the more senior you become the more you need skill development and executive presence coaching. Coaches will develop you from the most junior to the most senior parts of your career.

Hint: Coaches unlike conferences and online videos that are generic and untailored to you and your success.

Tip 3: Stop wasting that learning and development budget on the wrong conferences and pre-recorded video training. Get training for you and your business!

Which do you need?

Need A Coach?

Are you a:

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