We coach leaders.

What’s the difference between mentoring and coaching?

My partner asked me this question the other day which triggered the thought that this was a good topic for a blog.  In fact the terms coaching and mentoring have become blurred – for example I have a colleague whose PhD thesis was on the topic of what he calls mentoring, yet the process he was describing is what I call coaching.  So it’s a matter of what each of us wants to understand by these terms.  Here’s how I differentiate them:

What’s a mentor?

To me a mentor is a wise elder, who possibly works in the same organisation or in the same field as their ‘mentee’ – I hate that word but you know what I mean!  A mentor can show others the ropes, keep them informed about what’s really going on and give sound advice.

What’s a coach?

A coach on the other hand is an enabler of their clients’ learning.  I believe it is the coaches’ role to be a catalyst or facilitator of their clients’ self-discovery by  listening well and asking open ended questions.  A coach can offer options, suggest what others have done in a similar situation and share tools and models that they hope will contribute to their clients’ insight but they will never give advice.

What I do

In my professional life I coach my Leadership Coaching clients and I mentor some others in my network in an informal way as a volunteer.  I also receive regular coaching support from my coach and seek wise counsel from a number of mentors depending on what issue I’m needing to resolve at any given time.

 How about you?

Have you got a coach and mentors in your life to support you?

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