Executive Coaching? Professional Mentoring? Sponsoring? What Do You Need and How to Ask For It?

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At VORNICA®, we are on a mission to triple the number of women CEOs in Europe by 2030. This means that from the meager current 7% we would like to see women leading at least 25% of corporate and business organizations across the EU 7 years from now. As I like to say with gusto, then all we need is 10 more years to double that number, and I will be able to die peacefully and without need for further reincarnations because we will have achieved equality in top leadership during my lifetime. Nice hope, isn’t it? 😊

Because we are really committed to this mission, we throw regularly all the best professional development methods and tools for women leaders out there in the ring.

From executive coaching to executive mentoring, from skill training to leadership development, from facilitation to team coaching, from consulting and advisory on female talent pipeline management and mentoring program implementation to professional group coaching and mentoring programs, we are catching women and their companies in a robust net of competencies and experience, so they can bounce up faster and reach their intended goals with more ease.

Personally, I spent the last 13 years of my life learning these skills, then applying them with 50 000+ individuals and corporate clients.

And yet, when we discuss with women leaders who reach out to us – smart, talented, ambitious women who strive to become better leaders and to grow in their careers and into the C-Suite, we still see a bit of confusion among three key types of development interventions: executive coaching, professional mentoring, and sponsoring.

So, let’s focus on this holy trinity of accelerated career and leadership development methods that women are usually after: coaching, mentoring, and sponsoring.

Our intention is to clarify which method is and does what and when you should ask for which type of intervention to accelerate your growth.


According to the International Coach Federation, of which I am a proud member and accredited coach, coaching is “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. The process of coaching often unlocks previously untapped sources of imagination, productivity and leadership.”

I started my coaching journey back in 2011 when I joined the requalification program Trainer of Personal Development with VEVA Czech Republic.

Several years later I graduated the accredited coaching program of the Czech Coaching Center, and I enrolled with one of the most reputable coaches in the world, Marcia Reynolds, former ICF global president and founder of Covisioning, for her Breakthrough Coaching program.

Before becoming a breakthrough for my clients, this last program has become a breakthrough for me personally. During our year and half together I understood that coaching is a deep process of holding the space for a client with your whole being: with your focus and attention, with your emotions, with your body and somatic intelligence, and more.

By noticing, mirroring, and asking powerful questions, the coaching process becomes a brain-transformative process. As the client is looking for answers deep within – perhaps some for the first time in their lives – new neuro-connections get a chance to form, and the client gets a taste of self-empowerment. Therefore, next time the client (should they be honest enough with themselves) can replicate the process and they can use the power of questions for self-coaching, thus bringing more clarity in their lives and more energy and resources into their work, careers, and leadership.


Ask for coaching whenever you feel confused, at a loss, and you don’t have the answer for what’s facing you. The moment you feel like you’re driving through the fog, this is the best moment to stop and invite someone to join you in a process of reflective inquiry.

Here are the type of questions you can bring to your coach:

  1. I have lost my sense of purpose. How can I find it again?
  2. I find it hard to clarify my vision – for my next career step, for this project, for this team etc. What should I do?
  3. I am in a constant state of inner conflict; I am not sure this role / company is the right one for me. How can I regain my clarity?
  4. Where do I want to be 10-15 years down the line? How can I carve a life vision that’s worth living?
  5. How can I stop wasting my time and become more effective?
  6. I have issues with this or that stakeholder. What’s going on and how to fix it?
  7. I know I need to communicate more if I want to ask for a promotion, but I can’t get myself to do it. Why? How can I change this?
  8. How can I recognize the right priorities and the right stakeholders? How can I be proficient without trying to make everyone happy?
  9. How can I experience more life-work integration?
  10. I am about to leave my role / company and I am scared. What should I do?


As my mentor recently put it, these days everyone and their dog is a coach. In fact, one of the most searched-for professions on the Internet right now is coaching.

That doesn’t make life easy for clients when the try recognizing a good coach. So, here are a few questions you can ask your future coach:

  1. How do you work? What is your favorite coaching method or methods?
  2. How does that look like in practice? What should I expect when working with you?
  3. What coaching schools did you graduate? What was the most important thing you learnt during your coaching studies?
  4. With whom are you currently accredited (globally ICF leads the way, followed by the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC) and a few other global organizations).
  5. Are you attending supervision? If yes, how often? (Note: coach supervision is a compulsory requirement for accredited coaches during the license renewal process).
  6. How will I know we are successful? How can I recognize we are making progress thanks to your coaching?
  7. What will be my role in the process and what will be your role?
  8. Will you give me advice during our coaching sessions? (Note: if the coach says yes, take it as a red flag – giving clients advice during coaching can hijack the self-reflective process and the neuro-biological process of forming new neuro-connections, thus putting a break on the self-empowerment process. A coach should always ask for permission to offer their perspective AND / OR they should recontract to shift into mentoring if they want to share their experience and concrete advice for you).

Before moving forward to mentoring, if you are in the process of selecting a good executive coach and you wonder what other good questions you could ask during the coach selection process, send me an email at Cristina.muntean@vornica.com and let’s talk.


I like to say that if coaching is great for clients who are not certain what they want or what should be next, mentoring is for clients who know exactly what they want – they just want to get there faster.

This is why quality executive mentoring is performance on steroids. When you have a good mentor who understands what you need you will shave off years of pain and wandering, and you will reach your goals way faster and with much more ease.

According to the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC), mentoring is “a learning relationship, involving the sharing of skills, knowledge, and expertise between a mentor and mentee through developmental conversations, experience sharing, and role modelling. The relationship may cover a wide variety of contexts and is an inclusive two-way partnership for mutual learning that values differences.”

As you can see in the definition above, compared to coaching, where the coach’s role is to ask great questions and to hold the space for the client to find their own answers, mentoring involves two essential extra things:

  1. the mutual sharing of skills, knowledge, and expertise, and
  2. role modeling.

In other words, if your mentor does not have the experience they say they have, and if they are not living their talk, they shouldn’t be mentoring you in the first place.


To recognize a good mentor you need to pay attention to several things:

  1. Their specific area of expertise – they should mentor you into something they have either experienced first-hand, or they are experiencing right now. For example, myself personally, I only mentor women leaders on strategic communication skills and personal branding for career growth, an experience grounded in 12 years of journalism and 13 years of developing my own personal brand, on leading in a distributed remote and hybrid work environment - VORNICA® is a remote-first organization - and on transitioning from corporate towards entrepreneurship and starting your own business.
  2. The length of their experience and the provable track record of their success;
  3. Testimonials from previous mentees – at least 5, ideally shared on LinkedIn;
  4. Their CV and recent professional development – have they attended a coaching / mentoring / people development course? Are they members of any accredited coaching / mentoring body?

Even though mentoring is considered to be a bit more freestyle than coaching, professional mentors, such as those accredited by EMCC, also need to engage in self-reflective practice and to attend supervision and regular continuous development courses to keep their knowledge-transferring skills up to date.

If you want to recognize a good mentor, ask them about the latest courses they graduated in the last three years and how they apply what they’ve learnt in their mentoring practice.

Questions on how to recognize and select a good executive mentor for yourself? Send me an email at Cristina.muntean@vornica.com and I will be happy to review your selection process with you.


Compared to coaching and mentoring, sponsoring is a different animal altogether. Sponsoring does not require certification; all it requires is the will of someone with influence to root for you and your growth.

If you look online for the definition of sponsoring, most probably you will find the definition of the marketing concept when a company associates with a certain idea, personality, or organization, and finances their growth.

Now, a sponsor will not finance you per se, but they will be willing to put the most important currency – their name and their influence – behind you when you will need it the most.

Along similar lines, a sponsor in your company can be:

  1. Your direct manager;
  2. Your HR business partner;
  3. Your internal mentor – they can also proactively lobby for you internally and externally;
  4. Your formal and informal in-house and external allies;
  5. Members of the board who see your potential and would like to have you assigned to their projects / in their teams etc.

Therefore, a sponsor is someone who has your best interest at heart and who is willing and able to proactively lobby for you where the rubber meets the road – when you are about to ask for a promotion, for involvement in a new project, for more budget for your initiatives etc.

To conclude: sponsoring is a loose format of human development that requires the will of a person with influence in or on your organization to lobby for you. Sponsoring is not a formal process, nor is it certified or accredited. This is why it can be harder to recognize it or to recognize that you need a sponsor, and to find yourself sponsors in time, not right before your next promotion.



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