Coaches, mentors and sponsors

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‘The smartest people I know have always had coaches, and they continue to invest in coaching throughout their life. This is what gives them their edge and makes them successful,’ said one of my role-models a couple days ago. This dialogue inspired me to write about my personal experience with coaches, mentors and sponsors.

Note: While I have had many mentors in my life, as do all of you reading this, I have only just found two coaches and one sponsor to work with. As this is my first experience, I have nothing to compare it to. Very few of my role models have undergone coaching themselves, so they have little input on my new venture.

That said, today let’s differentiate between coach, mentor and sponsor. Later on, in a sperate post, I will begin detailing my experiences with my two coaches!


Photo by Jeffrey F Lin on Unsplash

A coach is someone who helps you build a certain set of skills, previously identified by you as those needing work, over a set period of time- say 6 months. You work towards, and ultimately accomplish those sets of goals with your coach; think performance coaches in sports. Coaches can help you in your personal or professional development, sometimes both.

One of my coaches is not from the dental industry. He is helping me improve my leadership, presentation, and communication skills. The other, an accomplished oral and maxillofacial surgeon, is helping me build my network within the dental industry and with publishing my first book.


A mentor, for lack of a better description, is a role model. Someone whose life and work you would like to emulate in some way. You spend time with them at their convenience, so you can learn from their experience and mistakes. Your mentor, fully invested in you, recommends books for you to read, conferences for you to attend, and networks for you to be a part of. A mentor can also share insight on specific paths for you take in order to advance your career.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

My second coach, Dr. Cathy Hung, is an accomplished author and speaker in the dental industry. We first started off with a mentor-mentee relationship, that has only now evolved to include coaching. I called her one day to talk about my book and the gaps I have in the publishing industry. She identified my gaps, told me what I’d be needing in the next few months, and is now going to develop a robust coaching plan to help me succeed.


Photo by krakenimages on Unsplash

A sponsor is similar to a mentor but has more personal stake in your growth. A sponsor is typically someone senior in your workplace who advocates for your promotion or in creating more work opportunities for you. Your growth is also tied to theirs, so this is different from a mentor who may or may not be in your workplace and will always remain a 100% objective. The best example for a sponsor I can think of is my owner doctor at my current associateship.

She is well invested in my professional growth. She does this by giving me meaningful feedback on clinical cases, auditing my work to ensure progress and suggesting further education/CE to progress faster. ‘I see myself in you’, is what she always reminds me of when I make a mistake or worry about a patient, or treatment outcome. However, that said, like all bosses, she also has a vested interest in my success. My success is the success of her office too. Me looking good is her looking good. And vice versa. While sponsorship tends to have much more at stake, it can also be a beautiful engaging relationship, where both parties benefit long term. This is certainly the case in my associateship.

Why this is important

Is all of this new to you? Is it making you wonder whether your mentor is your sponsor or not? Good. The sooner we begin analyzing relationships, the clearer our thinking will become and the more objective we can be in making major decisions.

Remember that no matter what, coaches, mentors and sponsors are indispensable. All of them are key to your personal and professional success.  You can become unstoppable if you start investing more of your time in developing such relationships.

Many of the world’s most influential entrepreneurs make use of these relationships to climb great heights. How I Built This, is a book that demonstrates many examples of leaders who, with the help of their mentors and coaches, created a far reaching impact through their companies.

So, what are you waiting for? Go crush this week!

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