Career planning Coaching Mentoring Sponsor

The difference between a coach, mentor and sponsor

What I am about to discuss I wish someone would have told me when I was 21 years old!  This is definitely one of the most important drivers for an accelerating your career.

I was discussing the topic with two graduates who joined my team after completing the graduate program and they could not believe I was discussing this with them. They thought this was a Taboo topic!

I am going to discuss the following:mentoring, coachng, sponsorship

  1. Difference between Sponsors and Mentors
  2. Perception of women regarding sponsorship
  3. Role of a Sponsor: Relationship with Succession planning and sponsorship
  4. Role of a Sponsoree

Difference between Sponsors and Mentors

What is the difference is between a sponsor and a mentor?  Mentors act as a sounding board or a shoulder to cry on, offering advice as needed and support and guidance as requested; they expect very little in return. Sponsors, in contrast, are much more vested in their protégés, offering guidance and critical feedback because they believe in them.

Perception of younger women

Research from the Center for Work-Life Policy, a New York-based think tank, quantifies the power of the sponsor effect. Sponsorship provides a statistical benefit of up to 30 percent when it comes to stretch assignments, promotions, and pay raises—a boost that mentoring alone can never hope to match.

Many junior women entering the corporate workforce still underestimate the crucial push sponsorship can contribute to a high-potential but unrecognized employee. According to a study performed by the Centre for Work-Life Policy, a New York-based think tank, 77 percent of junior women believe that hard work and long hours, not connections, contribute the most to their advancement. There’s an overwhelming sense by these junior women that getting ahead by any other means is unscrupulous.

I was 22 and applied for a role head of training for the software company I worked for. I had taught more courses and could teach across the breadth of business and technical, in my view that’s why I should have the role. My new manager Andrew had the where with all to explain why I did not get the role? And more importantly what he was going to do to help me. He sponsored me and put me on a 12 week Dale Carnegie course, which taught me about the importance of making and impression, I still quote from the book today. He left a lasting impression on me as did the course.

This is also true of women of all ages. If you have a boss that is not coaching you or giving frank feedback on a regular basis, allowing you to represent them when they are on leave or other occasions and you want to move up in leadership and they are not preparing you as a successor, you may need to consider looking for a new boss!

A colleague of mine at Telstra, a high achiever did not get her bosses role after years of commitment and excellent results. She was very disappointed and only learned in the interview process what she needed to get to the next stage. As a leader it is our role to coach and ensure that when the time is right our successor, whom we have sponsored, achieves their goals and secures your role.  As a sponsoree commitment in this is to be open to learning and achieving the results needed.

As the saying goes people don’t leave companies they leave bosses.

When searching for roles in corporate after 20 years in the tech start up space, my number one criteria was who I was going to be working for. I was looking for someone who could coach me to be a better leader and sponsor me to successful next career step.

The role of  Sponsor

Having a Successor is critical in business, to de risk the running of the business, but also an opportunity for you to move on.  Successors and Sponsorship are essential together to deliver leadership from within the organisation, without going outside the company.

In a previous company I had a team member that just didn’t have good connections and the only barrier to them being a successor were the detractors. When I started at Salesforce, I had an experienced ex CIO, with a consulting background who applied for the role that I was appointed to. When we met, I asked why he did not get the role and he did not know, I said I would find out and then we would start work on what he needed so when I moved on the role would be his. I remained true to my word and sponsored him as my successor. During that time, we had to deal with the detractors, this meant sharing their perception with my sponosree and then me coaching him to turn it around.  He responded well, but there were times he was close to giving up, as we overcame one hurdle to find another. The feedback can often be intense and not always that palatable.   He secured my role when I moved on.

Sponsorship within an organisation starts with Senior leaders  who are prepared to become sponsors to support and promote top talent (sponsoree). For the sponsoree, similar to selling, they need to provide a point of view and insights that are valuable to a your sponsor. Delivery of insights, consistent achievements to an agreed plan  is very important to building trust and rapport between the sponsor and the sponsoree. Women often lack the confidence to speak up and challenge the way business is operating or strategic direction in a positive way, and because of this would particularly benefit from a sponsor relationship.

As a sponsor your role is ensuring that you help your sponsoree navigate the organisation, communicating who the detractors are and assisting your sponsoree in establishing the rapport and trust needed to progress relationships and advance their career.  This includes setting up meetings with senior execs, briefing them on how to manage the situation and insights into the individuals needs and characteristics.

Inexperienced and less self aware leaders who don’t engage in sponsoring judge others when what the individual needs is coaching. Worse still, the non sponsoring leaders speak to other leaders rather than engaging sponsorees, which would give the sponsoree the opportunity to learn.

This is not easy as you need to have critical conversations, my sponsorees have been eternally grateful and recognise the act of the conversations is because you care deeply about their success. Over time the sponsoree recognises the commitment needed to create the path to success.

Role of a Sponsoree

For the sponsoree, they need to provide a point of view and insights that are valuable to a your sponsor. Delivery of insights, consistent achievements to an agreed plan  is very important to building trust and rapport between the sponsor and the sponsoree. Women often lack the confidence to speak up and challenge the way business is operating or strategic direction in a positive way, and because of this would particularly benefit from a sponsor relationship.

If you want to progress in leadership then become a great sponsoree, what are you doing to make your sponsor look good, what insights can you deliver and what is your plan, have you shared it? Are you asking for feedback?

Sponsoring is like your most challenging sales campaign… there are times when you are not sure you going to win, but you remain committed.

My business coach explained that with no sponsor at an exec level, it is hard to succeed in the corporate world. My boss at the time Janice – asked Phil my coach what does Angela need to help her be successful? That was her first question to my coach. He was blown away by her question.

You need the mentorship and support to navigate the organisation.  As a Sponsoree in I have had many people helping me, it’s overwhelming and very different to my previous experiences . Given the size of the organisations I have worked in Salesforce, Telstra and nbn Business, you cannot believe the accessibility and openness, truly refreshing and for someone who has spent most of their working life in the entrepenuarual world very surprising.

If you are leader, who are you sponsoring? Who is talent? And are you doing all you need to ensure they are successful.

If you want to progress in leadership then become a great sponsoree, what are you doing to make your sponsor look good, what insights can you deliver and what is your plan, have you shared it? Are you asking for feedback?

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When personal stories do not serve us

Story telling is an art and something valued in society, as it creates connection, its memorable, its predictable to the listener as it has a beginning middle and end. However there are stories that we tell ourselves and others which are highly damaging. They right what we see as wrong in the world and stop us learning from the situation.

For many years I told a story about why I left the entrepreneurial world of start up to goto corporate. The story is I wanted to see how big companies worked. That is true but another story I tell is how I failed to influence the CTO and CEO of the global business to take a more pragmatic approach to a technology sunset challenge. A story I told for many years: This was to validate to me that the decision that was made that led to the business having to be sold, was not of my making. That story blocked me from understanding my own failing which is to tell and not ask questions, a much more powerful to influence.

I was in a leadership workshop and Lisa Vos the facilitator from Bendelta asked us to respond to how we felt about a workshop we had completed. She was listening for I feel XXXX. She explicitly asked for us not to tell stories, as this allows us to justify our response and she was not interested in that. I pondered on her request and then observed the groups responses, as soon as someone started with a story I could hear the difference. This was a profound moment as I like to tell stories all the time and realise that we cannot be vulnerable whilst we are in self justification mode of story telling.

What stories do you tell yourself to make you feel better about a situation?

How long have you been telling them to yourself and others?

What is the real reflection from the situation?

What are you going to say you learnt from the situation?

When you next feel something say I feel instead of telling a story that justifies your behaviour.

Coaching Mentoring Personal development

Leadership advice

70% of women think they will get on with hard work alone, according to New York think tank. These women did not value stakeholder engagement and collaboration, they believed that hard work alone would ensure they get on.

I mentor many young ambitious women and recently onewomen-female-mentorship shared feedback from her boss about raising her profile, as his boss was questioning what she does. She is incredibly hard working, taking on projects on her own and delivering.

As with many women I have mentored over time, they all suffer with the similar issues. They work on their own and are silent achievers. Some have said its up to my boss to know what I am doing. That comment in itself lacks understanding of a manager, who probably leads 5-7 people and may not know the work of individuals in the team. I have had this comment from women of all ages in their career and I am always flabbergasted at the naivety of the comment, given the work load of managers in today’s flattened organisation structures.

The advice given by her boss was to sit next to his boss, so he can hear her on the phone and he can see what she is doing. He also said she needs to brag more about what she is doing. This advice to a female is unhelpful and will not sit with their values. Instead the advice needs to be: What projects are you currently working on? What success have you had in the last week? Listen to what she is doing and then share with your boss. Other options are I would like you to present at the next team meeting on your current projects, can you collaborate with these teams as they will have an interest in what you are doing and can contribute to the project outcomes. This type of coaching is far more valuable then advice such as sitting near your boss.

Leading women is very different to leading men, understanding that women’s values are different, therefore your coaching needs to align to their values and needs.

Career planning Coaching Mentoring Personal development

How do I give back to a mentor?

At mentor walks last Friday I was asked what do I give back to a mentor?  A question I have been asked many times.

Giving our time to help others is by far the most satisfying act of kindness we can do. It is scientifically proved to uplift our mood and give a sense of well being.  For me helping anyone to achieve their goals in life is one of the most rewarding activity I can do and is connected to purpose and personal values.  Adobe-Spark-3-768x402

There are many benefits to a mentor: seeing others achieve things that they did not thing they could do, inspiration for speeches and blogs (respecting confidential information), themes emerge when mentoring which enables more constructive questioning, reminds you of your developments and leanings, triggers nostalgia about those times, inspiration and expands your repertoire of areas for mentoring. 

I am always astounded by what individuals are capable of, always walking away from mentoring sessions feeling inspired myself and uplifted.

I always ask people who are looking to be a leader who do you mentor? What have they achieved? You don’t have to be a leader to mentor, a pre requisite interview question for anyone who wants a leadership role.






Career Change Career planning Coaching Collaberation Influence Intrepenuership Judgement Mentoring Personal development

How do you prepare to move from Small business to Corporate?

I thought I was alone on the need to find out how large companies work. After 20 years in tech start ups, small and medium sized business, I had a desire to understand how large business operate, how they scale, how they manage the volume of business.  I secured my first corporate gig in  in my 40’s!intrepeneruship

7 years on I have no regrets, I have personally grown, I am still an entrepreneur at heart and love the opportunities that present themselves daily. The transition is the hardest personal development opportunity I have ever been through, but worthwhile.

In preparation to going into corporate from a small business here are the five skills you need to perfect:

  1. Stakeholder management:  In small business can you can afford to be dismissive and intolerant of others. In corporate you have to work at every relationship and interaction. If you don’t you can earn the reputation as “throwing others under the bus”, “difficult to deal with” .  The key to success is understanding what your stakeholders want from you, how you can help them through insights and sharing information and working as one.
  2. Judgement: Let go of it. It has no purpose and gets you into a heap of trouble.  Move from thinking about the persons annoying habits to how you can help them.  Build great relationships across the business. you cannot afford to have anyone who speaks negatively about you, as that will stop your career and find it difficult to achieve the results
  3. Job descriptions: In small business you need a versatile team that work across multiple disciplines, Job descriptions are a guide.  In corporate the need for clarity around roles and responsibilities is critical to the growing empires. In rapid growth the land grab is part of the political positioning by leaders.  Be careful when stepping over boundaries that you do it with consent.
  4. Influence: ability to change others thinking. In small business, energy and passion does the trick, in corporate asking great questions is critical to influencing.  You cannot influence by telling. You will fail fast, so learning to ask questions every day in every situation is the key to success. Collaboration is critical to working together
  5. Intreperneurship: your greatest asset to a corporate. Your ability to create and build from nothing. You are not hung up on turning the titanic, Job descriptions, perceived limitations, you bring the can do attitude, glass half full  that makes things happen.  You will inspire others by your enthusiasm and people will want to join you on your expedition. Sell this attribute as this is of great interest to corporate.

Startup opportunities in corporate is the best of both worlds. You can utilise your SMB skills whilst developing many new ones that will accelerate your development.

Today many people with startup businesses at the next stage of growth come and speak to me about how to tackle the transition from small to medium, medium to larger business. Some want to take a step up and don’t have the skills, others want to step back in the business, others want to be on the board and leave exec leadership to transition in to non exec roles. What ever the transition is you are looking to achieve, each needs a transition plan and a coach/mentor to enable the change.

I chose a business coach to prepare for corporate. Without the coaching prior and in the early years I could not have made the transition. Your new leader in corporate may have never experienced a small or medium business so the responsibilities are with you to address your gaps fast, so you can operate effectively.

As a result of developing the skills, I have definitely become a far better leader and coach.  You never stop learning, which is why career opportunities are so much fun and stimulating.








Leadership Mentoring Personal development

Looking in the mirror


In the last few years I have been in situations where I am with someone who has exhibited the same behaviour as me,  not a good behaviour,  I look on in horror as I have a ‘ahah’ moment.  This has happened many times in the last few years, but never happened before that point.  The first time was a women who came in for an interview. She was gregarious and laughed loudly at her own jokes.  I froze thinking is that the impact I have? Wow there is work to do!  I have toned down that side of my personality and it has made a difference.

Yesterday I was listening to a colleague vent on the same topic he has being going on about for weeks, repeating themselves and as I listened I knew that is me. Wow is that the impact I have… I have some serious work to do. I am still reflecting on the impact and how I can change my behaviour.  We all vent, but repetitive vents are time consuming for the receiver and show no leadership or recognition of failure.  When we vent, what I am observing is where we fail to influence. Influence is a key skill for any leader.  So now when I catch myself venting or repeating frustrations, to take a breath, ask what am I going to do differently no one is interested in your venting!

What I don’t understand is why I have never noticed this until relatively recently. My reflection is that I am now centred in others and not myself and that transition has made the difference.  When we are centred in ourselves we are not actively listening or present, that shift has allowed me to listen and be present, leading to another level of awareness and some of the best leanings.

Self awareness is a lifelong journey.










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Don’t speak ill of others

inspired by Sharon Martin

The words of Sharon’s boss at her funeral, will never leave me. He said “She never ever spoke ill of anyone” a rare trait that set her apart from others. Those words are inspiring and an important lesson for us all.  Her boss himself admitted to running down others and he hated himself for the trait. A trait most people have.Dont speak ill of others

Judgement is a terrible human trait, that leads to poor behaviors that really have impact on people. I never forget 6 years ago when Phil Crenigan my Business coach encouraged me to raise money for the homeless at the CEO sleep out.  The evening of the sleep out people from all walks of life speak up about the events that led them to be homeless and then the loneliness of homelessness. Up until that point I would not make eye contact with homeless people, let alone hold a conversation,  that day changed me forever and since then I always say hello and pass the time of day, and often give food or coffee. My judgement has gone and been replaced with a deep understanding of others who are less fortunate.

Not only do we need to ‘seek to understand, before we are understood’ a famous Dale Carnegie saying,  we need to  center ourselves in others focusing on there needs not our own.

When someone is criticizing  another person, not in there presence,  you have to ask yourself, do they do that about you when you are not there?  My question always is, have you shared the feedback with the person? if not, why not? Feedback is critical for people to improve.

Don’t speak ill of others, none of us are perfect.



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Your Next Career Move

Preparing for your next role, can be daunting. It is certainly a journey not a destination. Here are 7 steps to take charge of the next career move:

1. Take Charge Of Your career pathOwn Career – seek support from an executive coach, mentors and work with people to help you get that next move

2. Stop Over Thinking – take action, fix the situation and move on – over thinking is a waste of time and energy

3. Public Speaking – you can’t avoid it, practice practice practice. Invest in Toastmasters. Start small with internal stakeholder opportunities – put your hand up – put yourself out there and don’t wait to be asked!

4. Step Up – step into the gaps and find the opportunities

5. Be Fearless – be prepared to make the tough decisions and take stakeholders on the journey – face into fear and build resilience

6. Expertise – soft skills and ability to communicate are more important than expertise – don’t rely just on expertise. 70% of women believe expertise alone will secure the next role according to New York Think tank 77.

7. Gravitas – learn when to speak and when to be silent – stop fidgeting and chattering! Have a Julia Bishop moment.

Continue to work on all of the above and opportunities will come your way.  All the best with your next career move.


Career planning Leadership Mentoring Personal development

So you want to be a Manager/Team Leader?

Do you feel you are ready for the next move? Does your boss or peers see you are ready for the next move? What preparation have yoManager_LPu done to take the next move?

We all harbour self-doubt, are we good enough? Will we be successful? So, although we all want success, there are times when we question our own abilities. Is that you?

What can we do to overcome these negative thoughts and self-doubt?So how do you apply your learnings to other aspects of leadership or stepping up to the next role?  Well, practice. Practice, Practice, Practice

I have heard many times in my career, well I cannot practice until I have the next role. When I hear this as a leader I despair, the comment shows no leadership.  Let me repeat: I cannot practice until I have the role, or I cannot prove my experience until I have the next role.  If you are in this trap, then here are five essential steps to move forward:

  1. Mentor another person, if you are young offer reverse mentoring. Mentoring another is all about being a leader and taking an active interest in others. If you have never mentored another and then go for a manager interview, you are unlikely to get the role.
  2. Are you on a committee? Kids school, local community, football team, Toastmasters. If you on a committee you are already aware of the meeting, strategy, treasury, you may have performed one of these roles. If you have you will have more confidence to be a leader when you will be required to present and debate with your peers and leaders
  3. What Projects are you working on? Are they team or company-wide? How do you participate? Projects that are cross-functional expose you to other functions, other leaders and peers across the business. It also shows your power to influence outside your immediate team
  4. What do you do to make your boss look good? How do you make them look amazing? Deliver excellent results and keep your boss informed of your plans and progress.
  5. Defensive behaviour: Something I struggled personally for years, so attached to my work if anyone had any feedback, I would be offended. I had taken so much pride in my work, it was hard to swallow. It is the most limiting behaviour, being open to feedback on your work, acknowledging the feedback, even thanking the individual is the only way to go if you want to get on. It is the most common area of coaching with team member and mentees. I witness and coach on these behaviours every day.  If you are not sure whether you do it: Ask your boss?

So you want to be a Manager/Team Leader? Take action now remember the 5 key steps to successfully securing the next role:

  1. Mentor
  2. Get on a committee
  3. Get on a project wider than your team, better still come up with something that impacts company wide
  4. What have you done to make your boss look good?
  5. Take control Defensive behaviour

So, you want to be a manager/Team leader? You can do it, you have made the first step by reading this article.



Career planning Leadership Mentoring Personal development

7 Steps to Gravitas

Where do I start? I have had feedback from leaders I have worked with, that I smile too much, fidget, talk too much and don’t have gravitas. This has come from many sources over many years. A few years ago I went on a short course on executive presence and the teacher used examples of Gravitas and we discussed leaders such as Julie Bishop. It’s not just her dress, but its presence without words, when she speaks she holds the room.

Anjulie Bishop ex colleague of mine Marina observed my restlessness and how distracting this was. She suggested a hypnotist. I was taken back as I did not believe in hypnotherapy, determined to address this consistent feedback I went and too my surprise the process built awareness and with awareness came the ability to control my movement. I am a lot better, and if I exercise and don’t drink too much coffee all is good! I don’t smile, unless someone says something funny, hard when you are a happy person! When I speak I ensure I don’t waffle, concise and to the point. I don’t talk too much, only when needed, a challenge when you are a chatterbox!

Over a year ago I was interviewing and a lady very smartly dressed she sat down and started talking, laughing at herself in a gregarious way. I was looking in the mirror and in an instant I understood, why I did not have gravitas. The impulsive talking, need to be liked and a laugh that would scare anyone, was a far cry from gravitas. The similarities were scary and as hard as it was to concentrate on the interview, I could not get pass the impact that the characteristics had on me. It devalued the individuals capability and made it difficult for me perceive her in the way she would have hoped.

Here is the dilemma, when we are not our true self, we feel we that we lack authenticity and that can also be perceived badly. I made a decision to change my behaviors and focus on building gravitas as I do not have anything to lose and I have a lot to gain. The journey is a good one and  worth the effort. You have far more impact in business. When I prepare for a meeting with senior personnel I think of Julie Bishop.

What to practice:

  1. Sit still
  2. Smile at appropriate times
  3. Don’t transmit
  4. Leave your ego outside
  5. Answer questions,ask questions
  6. Active listening
  7. Dress the part

Key message: Practice Gravitas if you want to succeed in your career.