Coaching vs Mentoring – What is the Difference
Posted on September 9, 2019
Coaching and mentoring are often used and interpreted interchangeably, especially in business contexts. However, there exists a difference between the two. It is important to note and be aware of this difference in order to enable organizations and individuals to rightly choose between the two. Depending on a case to case basis, effective decision making can be highly beneficial in employing a more effective strategy for personal or professional development.
A mentor is someone who uses his/her skills, expertise, knowledge and offers advice to those under their wing. By drawing from their own skills and experience, mentors are able to guide mentees in the right direction.
A coach focuses on developing specific skills and achieving and meeting set goals. Larger goals are broken into smaller ones with specific deadlines. There is clarity in terms of specific tasks, and this enables people to effectively guide business visions.
It is important to note the reasons that coaching, and mentoring are used interchangeably. This is because of several similarities between the two. The main professional skills employed by a coach or mentor are largely similar; listening, questioning, feedback, explicit goal setting, building trust and action planning. In either case, the coach or mentor must be focused on issues that are important to the individual. The content emphasized must be based on the needs of the client/mentee.
The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.” — Steven Spielberg
However, it is important to notice the more nuanced points of coaching and mentoring.
Differences between coaching and mentoring:
- Task versus relationship orientation
Coaching focuses on specific tasks. The focus is on concrete skills and issues such as managing more effectively or learning to speak articulately. Mentoring, however, is more relationship oriented. It provides an environment wherein the mentee shares whatever is hindering their own development. Specific tasks may be employed in developing the relationship. But, a mentor focuses on more holistic goals such as an overall work/life balance or personal barriers to success.
Coaching tends to be short term. Since coaching is goal driven, the relationship is not long term. After the achievement of the particular goal or task, the relationship ceases. Mentoring on the other hand, is more long term. It requires time as the relationship is more personal and time is needed to develop trust. The mentee must feel comfortable sharing issues impacting their success.
- Performance versus development
A coach’s focus lies on performance. The main goal of a coach is to improve the individual’s performance on the job and ensure its successful completion. It depends on enhancing skills or developing new ones. Once this task is completed, the coach is no longer required. A mentor, however, focuses on developing an individual for the future. There is a distinction between the individual’s manager and their mentor.
“A coach has some great questions for your answers; a mentor has some great answers for your questions.” – Unknown
Simply put, in order to coach it is necessary that the coach have the skills that need development and the expertise to ensure the development. Mentoring skills must exceed well beyond this and must include the ability to cultivate a personal relationship and earn the other person’s trust.
Coaching is, therefore, of different types for different reasons. The type of coach is also important depending on the purpose of the coaching. Life coaches and business coaches are distinct. A life coach is more focused on developing the more personal aspects of one’s life. A business coach is often the coaches in organizations who are assigned to train younger individuals to harness their skills to meet development goals.
There are several reasons that coaching, or mentoring are beneficial to organizations and individuals. The specified focus helps develop skills or the individual’s personality better than most other methods.
The main benefits of coaching or mentoring include:
- Clearly define and work towards achieving goals
- Allows clients/mentees to become more self-reliant
- Leads to higher professional and personal satisfaction
- Allows one to more greatly contribute to the organization as a whole
- It makes those involved more responsible and accountable for actions and commitments
- Creates an environment to more easily and productively work and engage with others (boss, direct reports, peers)
- Improves communication
Mentoring and coaching in the workplace have been extremely beneficial to organizations as well. It focuses on an all-round development of the individual, improving performance. It also creates an environment in which individuals are more focused and engaged with organizational goals.
The main benefits of coaching or mentoring in the workplace include:
- Empowering individuals and encouraging them to take responsibility
- Increasing engagement at an employee and staff level
- Improving performance of specific individuals which boosts overall company performance
- Helps recognize and improve employees with high potential
- Helps ascertain the organization’s as well as individual strengths and cultivates development opportunities
- Serves to encourage and boost individuals to excel
“The [best] coaches… know that the job is to win… know that they must be decisive, that they must phase people through their organizations, and at the same time they are sensitive to the feelings, loyalties, and emotions that people have toward one another. If you don’t have these feelings, I do not know how you can lead anyone. I wasn’t hired to do anything but win.” – Bill Walsh, Coach of American Football
The main purpose of coaching or mentoring is to improve the individual’s life in a professional or personal environment. It allows individuals to excel and achieve greater heights. It allows individuals to build a positive and concrete change in themselves. It allows for the transfer of knowledge from the coach/mentor to the individual. In terms of the workplace, coaching or mentoring allows career growth.
Coaching or mentoring is beneficial to both or all individuals engaged in it. It allows for a great degree of personal or professional growth. Coaching may be better suited to cases wherein a particular skill is to be developed or a specified goal must be achieved. Mentoring allows individuals the opportunity to grow and excel in all facets of their life and improves overall performance. When meeting short term goals, coaching is better suited. However, for more lasting change, mentor relationships prove to be more beneficial.
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