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Ivie Temitayo-Ibitoye: The Difference Between Sponsors & Mentors

Mentors serve as a guide, talking you through issues, working you through decisions and hand-holding you through life, while sponsors serve as cheerleaders and advocates, speaking about you publicly and privately and telling others that you can do it.



Sitting in the boardroom with fifteen members of the senior executive management of Frazel PLC (not real name of company) was surreal. As a consultant, I always look forward to these sessions where top management of organizations invite an external consultant to observe and procure recommendations during appraisal sessions.

I particularly applaud organizations that take Performance Appraisals sessions seriously. I know too well that an effective appraisal and performance management system has a significant impact on the organization’s culture, staff morale and employee engagement levels. All of which invariably enhance the organization’s brand and supports the retention of key talent(s).

One of the many things that has completely blown my mind consistently is how one comment from one or two members in the room changes the course of a person’s career within that organization.

A simple comment from Mr. Akinsola with no single person to counter his claim cost Derin a promotion, and a comment by Kemi Badmus with the support of five others got Feranmi a double promotion.

As I saw this play out again, I smiled. I again recognized the need for these ones who fight and advocate for colleagues and team members – SPONSORS.

I have been very lucky and blessed to have had sponsors in all my jobs and I can tell you that it is the icing on the cake in growing a successful career.

Sponsors are often thought of as mentors, but no, they are not.

Mentors serve as a guide, talking you through issues, working you through decisions and hand-holding you through life, while sponsors serve as cheerleaders and advocates, speaking about you publicly and privately and telling others that you can do it.

In this career journey, I believe that not everyone needs a mentor, but everyone surely needs a sponsor.

What do sponsors do?

  • Sponsors promote protégés directly, using their influence and networks to connect them to high-profile assignments, people, pay increases and promotions.
  • Sponsors help drive their protégé’s career vision.
  • Sponsors give protégés their active network connections and make new connections for them.
  • Sponsors champion their protégés visibility, often using their own platforms and reputation as a medium for exposure.
  • Sponsors use their influence to advocate on your behalf.

In identifying a career sponsor, please take note of the following: 

  • A sponsor does not have to be your direct supervisor or line manager. In fact, that, in itself, could be a wrong move.
  • Sponsors have to be people with influence in the company.
  • Sponsors are people who have a seat at the ‘table’ where decisions are made.
  • A sponsor could be your boss, your boss’s boss or anyone who’s in a position to influence others and who knows you well enough to put his or her reputation on the line for you.

Once you have identified your possible career sponsor, the question then is, ‘how do I attract a sponsor?’. I recommend the PIE model.

P – Performance: No organisation, I repeat, no organisation rewards an average performer. As such, no executive will put their reputation on the line for a less than top performer. Top performers are always willing to stretch, mostly or always deliver outstanding results, develop themselves to consistently have the knowledge and tech expertise they require and they solve problems and make changes.

I – Image: What do you think co-workers think about you as a worker and professional? How would they rate your attitude, work ethic, and abilities within the organization? Why is this important? When your sponsor begins to notice you and decides to randomly ask a few people, will their responses make the sponsor retract their steps or spur them on?

E – Exposure: Every sponsor will consider the following:

  • Do I know what they’ve done or accomplished?
  • Have I interacted with them directly?
  • Have I seen them do presentations?
  • Have I read the things they’ve written?
  • Have I heard others talk about them?
  • In a nutshell, are they visible?

As such, one must be intentional about exposing themselves within the work space in an intelligent and smart way that catches the potential sponsor’s eyes. While some call it eye-service, I call it ‘strategies for success’.

At the end of the day, all you dream of achieving in your career is up to you. Are you going to leave things to chance or will you begin to strategically make yourself visible?

Ivie Ogbonmwan serves as the human resources manager, responsible for strategies to attract, develop, and retain talent for ACT Foundation. Prior to her current role, She was an experienced analyst with OutsideIn HR, a management consulting firm which focuses on human resource business partnering, global talent development, and organizational effectiveness. Ivie’s educational background includes an LLB in Law from the University of Benin and a B.L from the Nigerian Law School. Contact Ivia via: and [email protected] Follow on Instagram: @iviechic

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