Navigating The Professional Path With A Mentor

"I'm yet to see anyone fulfill their potential without a mentoring relationship."

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This week, we sat down with executive coach and speaker René Carayol who reflects on the importance of mentors, advocates and sponsors in an organisation. He reveals the rare skills that participating in a mentoring relationship can bring, like leadership, and why everyone should get involved in one!

René, I first wanted to ask you why you believe so strongly in the value of mentoring?

“I’m yet to see anyone reach their full leadership potential without a mentor. Mentees get a 16% career uplift versus mentors who get a 53% one. Why wouldn’t you want to have one?”


Do middle leaders (i.e, middle managers) try to ask for top-tier mentoring like executives?

“The truth is that many senior executives are rarely asked to be a mentor because they are perceived to be too busy. Truth is, those people are just the sort of individual that most senior executives would love to mentor, mainly because they have the courage to ask them in the right way.”


In which situation is it most important to have a mentoring scheme set up?

“It’s so important for a homogenous environment. When you have a mentee from a different background to you, you have to trial a different style of leadership for example. The mentor, on the other hand, is of the utmost value to the mentee. They can talk about the unwritten rules of engagement in an organisation and help that mentee come through and flourish.

That’s what a mentor is all about: helping you become the best version of you.

Now that’s very different to a coach, what I do — a coach will make you the best version of you for the environment. They obsess about the environment! You have to play the politics… A mentor will help you bring your A-game every day.”


Is asking for a mentor as official as it sounds or is it quite informal?

“In some organisations, they have mentoring relationships set up right away. In other situations, it can be very informal. I remember I spoke at an event for a young and successful fintech company that was growing quickly and recruiting hard and fast. I told everyone there: “Try and choose someone who is not like you as a mentor but who behaves in a manner that you admire; and don’t be patient, start now.”

Moments later as I was leaving the building, I was accosted by a young woman who spurted out, “Will you please mentor me? I think you’re brilliant.” It turned out to be a very successful mentoring relationship.”


What is the difference between a mentor, an advocate, and a sponsor?

“The advocate’s role is simple but sensitive; they talk you up when you are not around. They know when to do it and who to say it to. They are difficult to get but it’s possible.

A sponsor, on the other hand, is the toughest connection to forge and the rarest one to observe.

Their job is to get you promoted. They might be someone who is coming to the end of their journey in an organisation, what we call the twilight years, and they want to ensure its future success. They will try find the best person for the job. To make it happen, however, they have to identify the right opportunity, the right line manager, and put in the legwork to make the promotion happen.

The sponsor is the hardest one to get because you don’t see them; they go out of their way to get you promoted. They’re also trusted and listened to because they’ve been around the company long enough.”


Why are these relationships so crucial to boost a career?

“Organisations will always be paying attention to the succession plan: the talent conversation. Managers gather to discuss who will be the future leaders of the company for example. They all gather to talk about the best people on their teams and that’s when the advocate and sponsor come to light. They are brilliant in that situation. That’s when they bring you into the equation and get you where you want to be faster.”


My biggest piece of advice to anyone at any stage of their career is to find themselves a mentor, and if you’re experienced enough, go find yourself a mentee.

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