Making Sense of Work with Jean Balfour

Ep. #23 Do I need a sponsor, mentor or coach?

July 07, 2022 Jean Balfour Season 1 Episode 23
Making Sense of Work with Jean Balfour
Ep. #23 Do I need a sponsor, mentor or coach?
Show Notes Transcript

Do you have a mentor, sponsor or coach?

Do we even need one?

In this episode Jean shares insights into the difference between the 3 and the advantages of each of them.

She also does a deep dive into sponsorship and share 4 key areas in how to be sponsor ready!

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Sylvia Ann Hewlett

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Hi everyone. I'm Jean Balfour and welcome to the week's podcast in the podcast today. I thought it would be good to explore the difference between mentoring the sponsorship and coaching. This is a question I get asked quite often. What is the difference between these three? But before I start, I just want to let you know that if you would like to be kept informed about our personal and professional development programs, a coaching opportunity. If you're looking for a coach or our accredited coach training, you can sign up to our newslette r@ You can also find me on LinkedIn Jean Balfour and on Instagram at Jean.Balfour. So, as I said today, I want to talk about sponsorship, mentoring, and coaching. And I thought I'd start with a personal story. I'm actually not very shy at asking for help in my career and my life. And I remember quite a few years ago now, as I was leaving the office to go and see my career coach, a colleague turned around and said, just how many people do you see? And I kind of stepped back. I hadn't really thought about it. And so I thought, well, at the moment, I've got a career coach. I have a therapist and I have a spiritual teacher. And along with that, I had a mentor at work and was also being actively sponsored by one of the senior leaders. And. as I think about this today, my life isn't much different. I continue to work with a supervisor and therapist who supports me in my life and my coaching work. I have a peer coaching group and guide, and I regularly see guidance, advice, thoughts of people I consider to be wise counsel. In my own experiences that each of these people bring such value to me and my life and my work. And I think I would feel less without it. And I don't think I'd be on the same journey without all of those people helping me. I mean, my most recent experience over a long term was last year, as I was preparing to go through my master certified coach process, I worked with an amazing. Mentor coach who guided me. She gave me some pretty hard and challenging feedback. And over the time she gently encouraged me to step up to the next level. So all of these people have been with me on this journey and I guess. Maybe you could call me needy. I'm not worried about that because I know that I'm a better partner friend manager and a coach as a result of the support that I seek and receive. So if they come as no surprise, then, then I'm a big fan of inviting people to do this. And I'd like to encourage you to think about the different people who could be supporting you in your career and your life. So, as I said today, I'm going to focus on three of these and do a bit of a deep dive into one. In particular. The three I want to focus on today are mentoring, coaching, and sponsorship. And I'm gonna do a deep dive into sponsorship because I think that's one that people know less about. So, let me start with what I see as the difference of these roles. I think of it as a bit like a tier of intervention in one way. So at one end, we've got coaching, which is the least interventionist. And then we've got sponsorship at the other end, which is the most interventionist. The. A sponsor is going to act, or we've got another way of looking at it, which is that coaching is very much a process of two people or in a group coaching where you do some introspection where you do some thinking and planning yourself. And at the other end of it, we've got sponsorship, which is about action and doing, and really focusing on that. To take it a little bit further. A coach is really there to help you to think about your own goals, to help you overcome personal issues and to think about what's affecting you at home and at work. A coach will use their experience of coaching their skill to help you think for yourself, but they probably won't have expertise or experience in the field that you are in. So their job is to hold a mirror up to perhaps offer frameworks, to help you make sense of things and to take you on a journey. They go with you on a journey to a deeper understanding of what you desire and what might you be holding you back from achieving that? So, a coach is really, as I've said, inviting you to do some introspection and through that introspection to make some changes and to create a plan. We talk in coaching about helping people access their own wisdom about believing that people are resourceful and whole, and have the ability to come up with the solutions that are best for them. And in the types of things we talk about in coaching, I believe that's true. So a mentor is different to a coach. I would suggest that most mentors are using coaching skills actually, because they are using listening and questioning and helping you think, but they will also be sharing experience. A mentor might be somebody who's more senior to you is most. Where they can offer different approaches to your journey, or they can share their own career journey and share feedback and insights that they have. They'll be able to share times that things went well times that things were challenging and how they dealt with those. Times they are often inside an organization, but they don't need to be. I spoke to somebody this week whose mentor was in the organization and has now left, but they still work in a mentoring relationship together and they can be junior. It's less common to have a junior mentor, but junior mentors can help you to understand the experience that they are having, of being in an organization and what's happening for them. And all of this is in service of helping you to succeed in your career. There's a bit of introspection and a bit of action. It's really about you using their expertise or using their experience to help you think about what you can bring about that's best for you. A sponsor is the most active and interventionist. They are someone who sees potential in you and helps you to progress. And they do this by putting their own reputation at stake, perhaps recommending you for roles or stretch assignments. They will talk about you in meetings. They'll make sure that your profile and brand are high. And they do this because they see your potential and they see that you are capable of leading in many ways. They're putting their reputation on the line to support you, to sponsor you in the last episode of the podcast, Joanna Lee Miller talked about how did American express. They really began to proactively think about sponsorship. And some of the research about sponsorship in organizations has come from there. And one of the things that they explored was that what we saw was that people in majority groups and organization have actually. Sponsors. It's not a new thing. It's been happening in a very informal way. We perhaps wouldn't have called it that, and that, that has helped them progress. But what we saw and what they saw through their research was Sylvia Ann Hewlett was that people in minority groups didn't get the same levels of opportunity to have a sponsor, or if they had a sponsor, perhaps that sponsorship relationship was only one of them. And so it was vulner. so what do we really mean by sponsorship? As I've said, Sylvia and Hewlett has done the main research on this topic and she. No matter how fiercely you lean in, you still need someone with power to lean in with you. And so her understanding of the difference between a mentor and a sponsor is that a mentor advises and a sponsor acts that sponsor uses their power for good for you for your career. Just a small note here that, uh, Jo also mentioned in last week's episode. the research found that it's actually good to have more than one sponsor. So I, you know, I heard an example recently where somebody's sponsor left the organization and this of course leaves you struggling to gain traction or to keep moving and you have to start again. So it's good to be thinking about, have I got a sponsor? Have I got a sponsor or two, maybe a main sponsor and a secondary sponsor. But the problem with all of this is that you actually can't ask someone to sponsor you. It's really hard for someone to speak up, to put their reputation at risk. If they don't either know you well enough, or they don't see you living up to the standards that they might expect from someone who sponsor ready, you may be living up to those standards, but you may. Be telling them or letting them know, or it may be that you actually need to step up and move into some of those standards. So it's important to think about how, if you want a sponsor, can you be sponsor ready? How can you show that you have the potential? How can you show that it's worth a sponsor taking that risk and they're risking their reputation to support. So to help with this, uh, few years ago, I actually created a model to explore. One are the four areas that I think we need to be demonstrating in an organization to be sponsor ready and my sponsor ready. I mean, ready to move into new roles, more senior roles and ready for somebody to help you to do. The first of these that I guess might go without saying, but is still gonna be mentioned is that you need to be somebody who's both a high performer and that you believe, and they believe that you've got the potential to move into more senior roles. And so this might involve some soul searching. Checking your performance. Looking back at the feedback you've had over the last couple of years, and also really living into those more senior roles and thinking about what do I think I'm really ready for and I can confidently do. And where might I struggle? And am I really genuinely a high potential for those roles? It's important to be really loyal to the organization. If somebody's going to sponsor you, they don't wanna sponsor somebody. Who's likely to leave within six months. And so this does require a commitment. It may require some sort of verbal commitment to say that, yeah, this is an organization you're prepared to stick around in for a while. Of course, you know, you don't, nobody's gonna hold you to that, but it is an important part of being ready. You need to. As a part of this high potential high performer delivery oriented, and really being seen to deliver bottom line results, talking about it, being proud of it and showing that, you know, what matters in this organization about what good performance looks like. The second area is about having high EQ, emotional intelligence. There's so much research showing that the more EQ we have, the more effective we are as leaders. And I know if I'm sponsoring someone. I want to know that they're going to be able to manage themselves well, and that they're going to demonstrate the important factors of emotional intelligence, which is self-awareness self-management, um, empathy and the ability to relate well to other. And so part of that is about being open to constructive feedback. And I would argue if you want to be sponsored, seeking it really proactively go and touch base with people. What am I doing? How am I doing? What do you think about this? Do you think that somebody would be willing to sponsor me to put their reputation at risk? For me? We need to be very self-aware. I did a podcast, uh, earlier on in the series about self-awareness because self-awareness, as a leader is such a fundamental and important facet. We need to know what our personal brand is. This is. Understand what people are saying about us when we are not in the room. Of course, that's quite hard to know because we are not in the room. And so if you don't know that, go and find out, get some insights into that. And then the last bit about EQ is having really good awareness of organizational politics. All organizations are political as we get more senior in the organization, decisions are made through relationships through that relational savvy. And if we are not aware of that, then it can make us look a bit risky to support. the third area is trust. And this is because if I'm gonna risk my reputation for you, I also want to know that you are trustworthy and that you are going to support me as the sponsor that you are going to promote. My legacy that you are going to do what you say you're going to do that you will behave in a way which people will respect you, and that you are committed to this in the long term that you see that this is about building genuine long term relationships, and you will do that in a way that builds others trust in you, in your ability to do the job. And then the final area is about being proactive. If I am going to risk my reputation for you, I want to see that you are somebody who's actually also moving forward, that you are taking opportunities that you are saying yes to things. And you are looking for places where you could say yes to things that you are really stepping up into that it might be somebody. Who goes the extra mile without wearing yourself out too much, of course, but really going that extra mile so that you can be seen as somebody who's willing and capable and prepared it's important to put energy into the sponsorship relationship. So once you are aware that somebody is doing this to support them in there, to help them understand what's going on, where you are up to in your journey, what's going well, what are the successes you've had so that they've got ways that they can support you. And it's important to. Proactively demonstrating your own value, letting people know where you see your value and living that. So standing up for what is right in the organization, but also doing what is right. So all four of these are really about being in many ways, an exceptional employee about somebody who really sees their career in the organization. And who's demonstrating that this doesn't mean compromising your own personal values or doing things that you don't believe in, but it does mean looking for those opportunities to demonstrate your. So as you are listening to that, I wonder what you are seeing about your own sponsor readiness. Are you ready for somebody to pick you up and say, I think you're capable. Of this, if you are not sure, go and get some feedback, find a mentor, maybe because you can ask people to mentor you and they might be able to help you think about it. They might be able to help you think about who would a good sponsor be in this organization and how might you build a relationship with them. And you could, of course, engage a coach to help you think about all of these areas and how you become ready. For someone in the organization to take that risk on you, to sponsor you so that you can move into your next role.