For most of us, there comes a point in our career when we need to start asking for opportunities to grow and develop. One of the ways to do that is through either coaching or mentoring. However you, or your manager, might ask — aren’t they the same thing? Many leaders know that they should be ‘coaching and mentoring’ their team members, but they don’t know the difference or where to start.
The first thing to note is that one can be coached or mentored at any age. Even the most seasonal professionals can benefit from coaching and mentorship. Secondly, one can be coached or mentored at any stage within the life cycle of a career or job. Transitional periods require both guidance and support, as well as opportunities to have one’s thinking and understanding tested and challenged.
A case for C&M
Research shows that organisations that invest into mentors and coaches reap the benefits. 71% of Fortune 500 companies have mentoring programs, because investing in leadership capability pays off in performance, productivity and innovation. (Centre for Workplace Leadership 2016). Manchester Inc. surveyed 100 executives, most of which were from Fortune 1000 companies. Their research showed that a company’s investment in Executive Coaching realised an average ROI of almost six times the cost of the coaching. (Maximizing the Impact of Executive Coaching, The Manchester Review, 2001, Volume 6, Number 1, Joy McGovern, et.al.) The research shows what we know intuitively — that having someone to learn from and process with is beneficial to personal growth.
What’s the difference?
Coaching and mentoring might seem interchangeable, much like ‘training and development’, because people use these two terms in the same breath. But there are some key differences to discuss.
A mentor has the characteristics of someone who is older, more experienced, seasoned and can guide and advise his/her mentee. A mentor is future focused, building capabilities and experience that will grow one’s career.
A coach is seen as an individual who is experienced in coaching, who is a good listener and asks probing questions to help the person being coached to think, do, and understand. A coach is focused on current tasks, performance, habits and will give insightful feedback and advice.
So we can expect mentors to impart expertise while a coaches are more likely to be like a sounding board. In these terms they start to feel different but the below similarities can help to explain why people get confused:
- They are periodic. Scheduled as consistent sessions over a period of time.
- They are mostly conducted as a one on one relationship
- The dynamics of the relationship are similar as the mentor and coach hold the authority within the relationship.
- At times the topics of discussion can be similar as both tend toward providing feedback and guidance to the individual.
- They both tend to use a loose structure that is flexible enough to deal with contextual, real life situations.
How do I choose to coach OR mentor
I am sure you have heard it said “Our people need coaching AND mentoring”. However, how often have you heard “Should we coach OR mentor our people?”. It’s not a case of one or the other, because it can be both, but one needs to choose what is best for the individual and the goal of the organization. There are a few critical areas you need to consider when choosing to coach or mentor.
In terms of identifying gaps within one’s performance, one must consider what the problem is. Is there a deficit in competencies based on knowledge, skill, or attitude? Based on this assessment, you could quite simply identify if a coach could help listen, motivate, support an individual during a difficult time, or if imparting some wisdom, insight and experience would help one to grow in knowledge.
Every organisation benefits from correctly identifying talent and growing and developing these individuals. Growing talents’ competencies needs to be done by continuously measuring their potential. High potentials benefit mostly from mentors, where high performance mostly benefits from coaches.
3. Short term vs long term
Coaches are most valuable for short term, quick turnaround goals and objectives. Coaches help others achieve and perform at a higher level and motivate them to create habits that support their behaviours. Mentors invest into mentees over a longer period of time and benefit from a a strong, mutual beneficial relationship. Mentors and mentees generally require a higher level of trust and respect than a coach and coachee.
With all of this in mind, consider the following:
Your coach probably won’t be your mentor. The role of a coach is significantly different than a mentor. A coach is able to help an individual through a specific time period and can help develop a current role, position, job, or project. Think about sports, coaches seem to change as the dynamics changes.
Coaches are easier to find than mentors. You could Google “career coach” and you will find tons of options. However mentors take a bit more work. They most often don’t get any financial compensation, but benefit from the relationship based on common values. Carefully consider a person that inspires the individual, and with whom they can build report and trust.
Multiple coaches, one mentor. In one’s career or life, one could have had multiple coaches but few mentors. Choose coaches with a goal in mind: improved financial planning, higher EQ, effective performance standards, efficient people management. Choose a mentor with a longer term career path in mind.
Both coaches and mentors are great for one’s career. However, it’s how you differentiate between the two that makes them truly effective.