The Manager Tool Kit: Coaching And Mentoring – What’s The Difference?

Mentoring and coaching are two adjacent strategies to develop your capabilities and talents. They each bring a different emphasis and approach but the driving outcome is similar: to improve your ability to succeed in what you hope to accomplish.

1. A mentor is someone who has specific experience in the role or field of knowledge sought after. Mentoring is based on the mentor’s experience and expertise. A coach is someone that brings a set of questions, tools, processes and strategies to help you clarify and achieve your aspirations. As a coach you don’t have to be a CEO or run a billion dollar business to work with a CEO of a multimillion dollar company.

2. Mentoring is primarily the transfer of knowledge from someone who knows to someone who doesn’t. A big part of coaching is helping you access and draw out knowledge from inside – to realize what you already know but have not yet acted upon.

3. A mentor tells you what he did and how it worked and prescribes his success formula. A coach helps you to discover your own talents and recognize your unique success formula.

4. A mentor will model the behavior, demonstrate the skill and describe her experience. A coach will help you discover your way.

5. Often a mentor is an older person. The intimation is that the mentor ‘has been there’, ‘has done that’, has ‘faced these kinds of challenges’. A coach can help you discover your challenges together with you.

6. In terms of scope, mentoring tends to focus on the task, the role, the domain of knowledge. Coaching is about the whole person including the 12 eco-systems of success.

7. A mentor transfers job-specific and role-specific skills, organization-specific know-how, and culture-specific understandings. For example, engineer mentors a younger engineer; a movie director mentors a beginner movie director; a financial planner mentors financial planners, a manager with experience in multi-cultural groups mentors a junior manager moving into multi-cultural responsibility. A great coach will help you identify what’s most important to you, clarify what you “really” want and will help you create your individual roadmap to get to where you want to go. The Coach will encourage and challenge you to take action and will hold you accountable for your commitments.

8. The mentoring relationship is driven by the mentee’s inquiry and curiosity. The coaching conversation often evolves through the coach’s inquiry and usage of powerful questions. Therefore, a mentoring engagement thrives when the mentee takes the initiative to promote interesting questions to the mentor with their own insatiable desire to learn and apply the learning. The coaching engagement thrives through a collaborative discovery guided by interesting and provocative questions the coach brings forward.

9. When you want to know how something works, an organization, a process, a culture, you seek out a mentor. When you want to clarify how you should work on your future objectives you seek out a coach.

10. The power equation of coaching is peer-to-peer. The mentoring power equation is senior-to-junior or more experienced to less experienced.

11. The mentor shares life’s lessons and wisdom and you identify and decide what out of their experience is relevant for you. A coach will generate together with you options and strategies from which to choose your course of action.

12. As a coach you can take a mentoring approach when you have a personal knowledge in the domain of inquiry and the person coached inquires about your experience. As a mentor you can take up a coaching strategy to help the mentee discover her optimal path of action. The best coaches and mentors both enjoy helping people to actualize their potential and realize their goals.

13. An effective coaching program progresses through planned sequences of meetings: monthly, twice monthly or weekly sessions. Discipline is an important aspect of the coaching framework. We create accountability inside the coaching space. The mentoring framework is often less formal and the onus of initiative and discipline rests largely with the mentee.

14. You ask a mentor: “what should I do in this situation?” and she tells you her experience. You ask a coach and he reframes the question back to you: “What do you hope to achieve? What are your options? What if you did nothing? What feels right? Which path is most energizing? What would you do if you knew you cannot fail?”

Great managers are capable of a stepping into both – coaching and mentoring strategies. In our Adaptive Leadership (AL) and the Manager Coach (MC) programs we practice theses skills and behaviors. Most managers tend to use one style of engagement in which they are comfortable. Great managers practice situational awareness and adapt their mode of engagement to enhance the situation, promote growth and achieve best results.

© Aviv Shahar

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