Are you ready to mensor?

Yes, you read that right. It’s not a typo. It’s a new (and potentially very powerful) word I made up for the new programme I’ve designed.

Let me explain. Despite considerable effort, the numbers from diverse backgrounds at senior leadership level have stalled. What’s more according to the Harvard Business Review, the number one reason leadership development programmes generally fail to deliver on their promise is because of a lack of senior leadership support.

One of the proven ways to increase the number of leaders from diverse backgrounds at senior levels and reap the full benefit of investment in leadership development programmes is through targeted mentoring and sponsorship. But most leaders are not clear on the similarities and differences between the two approaches nor how to do either well.


So, what’s the difference? A mentor gives advice, supports you in your current role, helps you navigate organisational politics and prepare for your next role. A sponsor advocates on your behalf, recommends you for important assignments and promotions and helps you build relationships with people likely to be important to your career. Put bluntly a mentor, will listen and speak with you, a sponsor will speak up about you.

But here’s the problem: the most challenging point for any emerging leader occurs once they have taken on a stretch assignment or transitioned to a more senior role. Sponsorship may have got them there, but mentoring is what keeps them there.

And what senior leader, committed to developing people, doesn’t want to not only see those they rate promoted but also succeeding?

Rather than make an artificial distinction between mentoring and sponsorship, why not teach leaders the two critical skills to ensure career advancement simultaneously? Why not teach them how to mensor? And while you’re doing that, why not teach high potential leaders how to take advantage of the opportunity they are being offered?  Why not teach them to mensor (mentor plus sponsor)?

Knowing how to mensor effectively is both art and science. It is as much about understanding our own strengths and blind spots as a developer of people as it is knowing how to unlock brilliance in others.

So, the question becomes how prepared are you to be an effective mensor?


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