Occasionally I get asked what the difference is between a coach and a mentor. Good question, so I’ve put together this blog to simply explain the difference. While the communication skills used are similar – such as asking questions and active listening – they are very different interventions and depend on what the client needs. Here are some distinctions you might find useful:
Coaching: The Association for Coaching uses Anthony Grant’s (University of Sydney) definition for coaching as “A collaborative solution-focused, results-orientated and systematic process in which the coach facilitates the enhancement of work performance, life experience, self-directed learning and personal growth of the coachee.” This definition changes slightly, depending on the context (e.g. if it is team or executive coaching)
Mentoring: Suzanne Faure succinctly defines it as: “Mentoring is a long term relationship that meets a development need, helps develop full potential, and benefits all partners; mentor, mentee and the organisation”. – Suzanne Faure
How it works
Coaching is future focussed and client led, with the coach facilitating their client’s thinking to achieve their goals. It is of relatively short-term duration (typically 6 planned sessions), except in executive coaching, which tends to have a longer timeframe. In coaching the client is the expert and is naturally resourceful. Coaching is more focused on provoking self-awareness and so does not require the coach to be an expert in the client’s field of work (in fact some argue this can hinder the client’s deep learning),
Mentoring is working in the present to develop future performance. It requires time for both partners to learn about one another and build an environment of trust in which the mentoree is able to share the issues that impact their development. It is relationship oriented with the mentor supporting work towards specific learning goals or competencies. Mentoring is generally long term, lasting anywhere from six months to the duration of employment. It can be more informal and meetings can be ad hoc, as and when the mentee needs advice, guidance or support
Coaching, on the other hand, can be provided almost immediately on any given topic as the intervention is client led. The coach will enable the client to develop the confidence and/or clarity to achieve their objective, posing challenging, powerful questions that hold the client accountable to their learning and actions. During my coaching practice I often find that a client is already, or very is very quickly, clear about their decision. The real work is on their confidence or motivation to implement that decision.
Examples of when to consider coaching:
* When potential is impeded by a blocker (e.g. confidence)
* When increased resilience is needed
* When underperformance is identified (either by the company or the client)
* When responsibilities/systems/skills change
* During a period of change
Examples of when to consider mentoring:
* As a part of succession planning/progression
* To improve performance where gaps are identified
* As part of induction to new area of work/employees
* Balance/share expertise internally
The question is also occasionally asked as to what the difference is between coaching and counselling. This is an interesting question as coaching does in fact draw on a wide variety of disciplines, including psychotherapy and counselling. Essentially, counselling is provided to clients in distress, with emotional issues. It tends to involve the therapist analysing the client, looking to the past, placing an emphasis on non-judgemental listening. There are not necessarily any specific goals or commitment to action attached to this form of intervention.
I am a corporate professional with over 30 years’ experience and so am conversant with the problems and issues that arise in every aspect of life, particularly in work-life balance and pressures of the private, public and third sectors. We all have areas of our life that could be better. Coaching is all about getting from where you are to where you want to be. If you or your team would like to achieve your full potential through a better understanding of your unique strengths, abilities and values, contact me on email@example.com or 07710 624867.