The benefits of coaching, mentoring and sponsorship in retail career development

When you have a team of diverse individuals who are at different stages of development how much thought do you put into the way you help them reach their potential?

I have been lucky in my career that I have had some managers who have taken a real interest in my development and when I say a real interest I mean they really thought about what I needed regardless of how it would affect their time if I got a promotion or moved out of their team because there was a great opportunity waiting for me.

Throughout this post, I will explore the benefits of coaching, mentoring and sponsorship in retail career development, including:
  • How coaching, mentoring and sponsorship can benefit retail career development
  • Mentoring in retail career development
  • Coaching in retail career development
  • Sponsorship in retail career development
  • Using the mentorship, coaching and sponsorship mix in retail career development to support your team

How Coaching, Mentoring and Sponsorship can Benefit Retail Career Development

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Mentoring, coaching and sponsorship are all fantastic ways to bring people on but can offer something special to the right individual depending on how they like to be developed and what they need from you. I have used a mix of all three and this worked especially well in my last team where I had four direct reports that were very different in approach, learning styles and skills. My wider team of 40 needed strong leaders and I wanted to provide that for them.

Mentoring in Retail Career Development

Now I love being a mentor, it allows me to spend time with individuals who like what I do and I can use my extensive experience across retail as a whole to give them some insight that may help spark thoughts into how they want to move forward. I also enjoy mentoring people who are also outside of my area who have approached me as someone who might understand their questions and assist their thought process. Telling your stories can provide inspiration for someone who looks to you as a role model, always be happy to share these with them and be honest about how difficult it might have been and how you felt at the time.

Coaching in Retail Career Development

Coaching conversations can be had at any time and I enjoy seeing lightbulb moments happen during these as you ask the right questions to really make someone think about what they could do to push themselves on. And that’s the key, you ask questions that make someone think deeper and replay it them to understand if that is what they really mean. It’s important you are not telling them what you would do, this is about their thought process not yours. I didn’t save these just for one to one time and would often deploy this method when asked how a situation should be managed for example – I knew that these people could deal with it but I wanted them to come up with the solution instead of relying on me to provide the answer for them. Their talent often speaks for itself in these conversations and I learn more about them and what else I could offer to support them.

Sponsorship in Retail Career Development

Sponsorship is the full package of the above plus actively looking for opportunities for someone that could set their trajectory upwards. That could be a sideways move, project or promotion that you know they are ready for and you go into bat to raise their visibility to your peers and the wider business – this is someone they all need to know about! I feel grateful someone actually did this for me, I got opportunities on projects that pushed me out of the comfort zone of my daily role and showcased my skills to other stakeholders, it really was a turning point in my career.

This is also where your own people planning comes into the fore, should this come off you will have a vacancy and do you have someone lined up to pop straight in or know which individuals in the wider teams could be ready for their next move? Are you coaching that person right now or mentoring someone from another team who could fit in nicely? See the recruitment process as the next opportunity for you to help someone get what they need, there’s never a good time to lose a fantastic person from your team but it feels good to know you helped them get on their way and you might have inspired them to do this for someone else in the future.

Using the Mentorship, Coaching and Sponsorship Mix in Retail Career Development to Support your Team

Not being scared to have a busy time of it if one of your team gets the move they deserve shows you are keeping your people at the heart of what you do and they will always appreciate you gave them your full support. How you develop them or encourage others to play a part could be a key change in their career development because individuals may not be aware of what opportunities there are for them or how to go about getting more exposure to the business. Deliberate people planning will keep your visibility strong and can often provide opportunities for others to step up and give them a chance to show what they can do.

These types of development focus can make someone’s career and I know it did for me. Think about how much you are giving and that your one to one chats are not just about the job but about their progression. Your proactivity means you can plan ahead and see how the dynamics and skills in your team can be optimised but also create an amazing pipeline of people that will deliver for your business.

See how you can use the mix of mentorship, coaching and sponsorship with your team and how you can support their career journeys, the support you give could be so appreciated that individual will look at you as an example to follow as they become leaders. Putting their needs first can be difficult, uncomfortable and really inconvenient but you will find a way to accommodate it if what they need is most important. Plan ahead where you can and if others need more development to support the change you can discuss this with them, creating a dynamic of positive moves and promotion will make sure others want to be part of your team knowing they could get the same results working with you.

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