Do I need a Coach or a Mentor - what's the difference?

You’ve hit a roadblock – you need some help but what do you choose – a coach or a mentor?

‘Coaching’ vs ‘mentoring.’

Whilst very similar in nature, there is a marked difference in emphasis between coaching and mentoring. 

Coaching – 

Coaching usually has a set duration, is more structured in nature with meetings scheduled on a regular basis. 

The agenda is focused on achieving specific and immediate goals revolving around specific development areas or business issues.

A recent example – 

We had a high-flying young leader in a manufacturing company who spent no time networking in the organisation  was not well known to the level above her. 

She was seen as too competitive and territorial about her own division. 

She came into coaching having been told she will not progress in the firm, unless she can become more ‘corporate’ in her behaviour.

We worked with her to identify that the issue was a lack of whole business awareness together with imposter syndrome impacting on team dynamics. 

We set her a number of SMART (Specific Measurable Achievable Results focussed Time specific) goals including spending a week working within other departments shadowing each of the management team on the level above – the result being she understood how her work impacted the rest of the organisation and she built firm work relationships with the senior management team easing her passage forward within the business.

Coaching duration – an initial meeting followed by 6 fortnightly meetings with the coach.

Mentoring – 

Mentoring is more informal, and meetings can take place as and when the mentee needs some advice, guidance or support. 

It is longer term and takes a broader view of the person. 

The mentor is usually more experienced and qualified than the mentee often a senior person in the organisation who can pass on knowledge, experience and open doors to otherwise out of reach opportunities. 

A recent and personal example –

I had been wrestling with a problem of how to keep interested in my business for a while, I had at the time been running a recruitment business for nearly 20 years and was becoming stale. 

I reached out to an ex colleague and told her that my lack of interest was making me stale and impacting my mood, performance and ultimately my bottom line. 

She had been through similar and guided me into separate training, networking and  business opportunities which left me and my business invigorated.

Summary –  a quick comparison of coaching and mentoring

Coaching focuses on development and enhancing performance in specific present- moment work-related issues and career transitions.

It’s transactional level enabling the coachee to incorporate skills into their leadership/ management repertoire whilst developing self- awareness and awareness of their impact on others often leading to transformational behavioural and attitudinal change.

It’s carried out in structured meetings over a short term with no directive advice.

The coach does not require experience of the coachee’s role.

Mentoring focuses on developing the mentee professionally, their career development and managing work and life transitions, it takes a more holistic long term view with the mentor often opening doors through their network to new opportunities.

The Mentor has more experience than the mentee and offers more directive, sharing experiences and advice.

What ever help you need it’s great to have someone looking out for you in life so find a mentor just don’t forget to pay it forward and act as mentor to others a your journey continues.

Equally there are plenty of times you need a quick sharp fix – coaches can help you move to the next level.

Whatever you do – find the person to help – find the solution – move forward !!