Mentoring vs Coaching

Mentoring requires an individual to have a personal interest and to be personally involved in the long-term development of another.

Coaching requires the development of specific tasks that an individual must complete to build their skill base. Challenges, performance evaluations, and a clear set of expectations are followed without the need to have the same personal investment.

In the mentoring vs coaching debate, it is important to note that mentors can be coaches, but the act of coaching only eliminates the ability to act in a mentorship capacity.

What Are the Key Differences Between Mentoring and Coaching?

Mentoring and coaching will help people begin to improve their skills, productivity, and confidence. Each takes a different approach to the situation. Here are the key differences between the two approaches to consider.

1. Mentoring is based on relationships.
Mentors seek to create or provide an environment which is safe. This allows open lines of communication to form so that any issues that may be a roadblock to success can be eliminated. Specific goals and challenges may be part of this relationship, but the focus goes beyond these coaching elements. A mentor is involved in helping to create a true work-life balance.

2. Mentoring is a long-term investment.
For mentoring to be a successful experience, there must be a time investment made by all parties involved. Each must work with the other, building an environment of trust, so that everyone can feel secure in sharing what is bothering them. This eliminates many of the issues that can get in the way of success. Coaching follows a similar process, but relies on the commitment of the individual involved to succeed more than a mutually beneficial relationship to do so.


3. Mentoring is driven toward development.
Coaching has one desire: to improve the performance of the individual. That can be done through the teaching of new skills or the development of existing skills. Once the goal is reached, the coach can go away. Mentoring has one desire too: to improve the development of an individual as a person instead of as a commodity. It allows people to define their roles on a team, reduces conflict within the chain of command, and provides the foundation that can be built upon in the future if advancement is desired or required.

4. Mentoring must be designed.
Coaches work with people on a set of strategies that they have developed internally. Mentors work with people on a set of strategies that is based on what has been observed externally. Although both processes tend to follow models and pre-determined directions, coaches use assessment tools from their own competencies to determine success or failure. Mentors focus more on the relationship and match people to positions, skills, and goals without the same individualized mandate.

Key Points to Think About for Mentors

  • Mentors help to develop leaders. Whether it is to create a line of succession or to push the current talent pool toward greater things, mentors use personal experiences to form relationships that encourage goals to be met.
  • Mentorship removes barriers that can hold people back, even when there is a diverse workplace already in operation.
  • Mentoring helps to retain internal expertise by handing it from one generation of employee to the next.
  • It also creates a balance between work responsibilities and life responsibilities, helping workers feel like they are in control of their own destiny.

Key Points to Think About for Coaches

  • Coaches do an excellent job of developing a specific employee or team in specific competencies through the use of feedback and other forms of performance management.
  • It allows a new skill to be developed quickly when additional responsibilities are added to an individual’s job description.
  • New programs, systems, or policies benefit from coaching so that the required skills that will be needed can be practiced in an appropriate environment.
  • It can be an effective way to help talented workers to meet expectations when they are currently not meeting them for some reason.

There is always a time and a place for mentoring. There is always a time and a place for coaching. In the mentoring vs coaching debate, it is important to recognize when each key skill development process must be utilized. By identifying what workers need, it becomes possible to create the right plan that will provide the best possible chance at success.

Supervisors coach directly. Managers have no link to mentors and do not communicate with them during the mentoring process. This allows both options to retain the integrity needed for skill development to occur.

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