Part 1: Coach, sponsor or mentor?

Have you ever wondered what the words coach, mentor, and sponsor mean? Are they different? Is one better than the other? Yes they are different. As to whether one is better than the other, the answer is it depends on what you are looking for (insight? support? promotion?) and it also depends on your ultimate goal.

This is the first of 3 articles on the topic of coach, sponsor or mentor– which is best for you?

This article will focus on mentors.

I have had mentors over the years and I’ve been a mentor. In all honesty, some of the relationships worked and others did not. There are books, courses, lots of articles and first hand accounts on how to find a mentor and how to be a good mentor. There are some key elements from the perspective of the mentor and the person being mentored that must be considered and put in place for the relationship to flourish on both sides. Here are some ideas for you to consider.

5 questions to ask yourself before you enter into a relationship with a mentor:

  1. Why do I want a mentor?
  2. Am I open to accountability?
  3. Will I take advice and criticism well?
  4. Can I make a commitment to this? Six months to a year or more?
  5. Will I be able to end this relationship if it is not working out?

4 Questions to ask a potential mentor:

  1. Have you mentored someone? What was the experience like?
  2. How much time can you devote to mentoring me? Six months to a year? How often can we meet?
  3. Can you help me with (fill in the blank with your need)? The more specific you are the more likely you will get a positive response. If the person says they can’t help you because they don’t have experience or contacts for what you are looking for, you can consider asking them if they can recommend someone.
  4. What would you expect from me as your mentee?

It is really important to keep in mind that mentorship works best when there are benefits for both parties. What are you bringing to the table? How can you make this interesting for the person mentoring you? Be prepared to present those answers when you first meet with a potential mentor. Be intentional and state that you are dedicated to advancing and that you will devote time and effort to get there with their guidance. Don’t be afraid to say that you admire them and want to be like them hence the request.

You should also be prepared to hear “I’m sorry but I can’t help you at this time.” As hard as that is to hear, appreciate their candor and consider it a positive thing because it means that the relationship would probably not have worked.

And finally, here are some ideas on where you can find a mentor:

  1. Within your company. Be very thoughtful and keep in mind that this person should not be your manager or someone that you already report to.
  2. Industry groups
  3. Online: there are many organizations/businesses that can help you find a mentor. The listings are by category, by experience, by location etc. Some of these offerings are free, some charge a fee.

Asking for help opens the doors to so many possibilities: a good mentor will hold you accountable, and they will offer new ideas and/or new ways of thinking of things. Key to your success will be the objective evaluations they will present and equally important is the creation of a safe space where you will have the opportunity to let your guard down. And that my friends is what opens the door to your creativity and ultimately to your success.

Need some inspiration for creating a mentorship program? Check out this Pinterest board. And for for more information like this, please visit our resources section on


G. Nancy Allen is an international speaker, coach, consultant and expert on women’s business issues. Nancy has over 30 years of experience helping small business owners at all stages of growth. As President and CEO of WBDC Florida/Her Company Incorporated, Nancy manages and leads an incredible team of staff, sponsors, partners and women business leaders who are dedicated to certifying, connecting and championing women in business. Nancy has been recognized for her work on behalf of women in business through numerous prestigious awards: -Nancy was recently honored by the International Career and Business Alliance (ICABA) as one of South Florida’s 100 most accomplished Caribbean Americans. She is especially proud of this award because it highlights her heritage as well as her professional accomplishments. -Nancy is the recipient of the World Women Leadership Achievement Award from the World Women Leadership Congress -Nancy is also the proud recipient of the Association Marketing Award from Women in ECommerce. -Most recently Nancy was named Honorary Ambassador of Cascais, Portugal by the Ambassador’s Club of the Industry Sector of Cascais and the Estoril Coast. Nancy’s personal motto is Connections, Creativity and Courage in all endeavors. She holds a Master’s Degree from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS, 1982). She was born in Haiti and raised in South Florida. Nancy is bi-lingual in English and French and is fluent in Spanish and Creole.