Isn’t Mentoring just Coaching?
Before jumping in to answering this question I thought it would be good to give some examples of successful leaders that all have or had mentors. Here are a few:
Anyone can have a mentor. Most successful people understand that getting one or more mentors to help them and give guidance is not only valuable, but critical to achieve their goals. A mentor can be for life, and often is.
Now. Back to the main topic.
One of the common questions asked is "What is the difference between coaching and mentoring? Are they not the same thing?"
Simply, the answer is no, they are not the same. They are different tools, processes and relationships, and usually used in different settings.
Let’s look at what they are and how they differ.
The dictionary definition of coaching is: “a field for or pursuit of consecutive progressive achievement especially in public, professional, or business life; a profession for which one trains and which is undertaken as a permanent calling”.
In practice, coaching is usually practiced inside an organization, business, or sports team where there is an organization hierarchy with skill delivery leading to high performance at the core of the work. Coaches are usually in the direct management chain of the person or team being coached, and most often the coaching is short term and focused on skill development. It will center around a specific position, job function, or role in an organization and will use performance based evaluation to measure progress. There will most likely be a structured performance evaluation or metrics to measure the rate and level of skill development. One can be an effective coach without being a mentor.
The dictionary definition of a mentor is: “a trusted counselor or guide”.
Mentoring at its core is about the relationship between the mentor and protégés (males) or protégées (females). The mentoring relationship can be for a short period, for example six months, but it can also be for a lifetime. Many successful people have had lifelong mentors. Mentors are most often outside an individual’s management chain, and often not in the same organization or company. Mentoring looks to develop the person and look at their overall life and success, and is not focused on a particular role or position, but may do that in the short term when needed. Progress is measured by the mentee's realization of achievement and success in life, not by performance reviews. The mentoring relationship is usually mutually beneficial, with both parties learning and growing during the process. Most importantly, one cannot be an effective mentor and not also be a good coach.
An effective mentor will bring all the skills of a good coach into a relationship, but will add much more by looking at the bigger life picture and help develop goals, skills and behaviors that impact the mentee's whole life, not just their work position or role.
Given this broader and deeper role of a mentor, it is key that you select the mentor or mentors in your life with care. You and the mentor must be able to work together, you must trust the mentor and be open to hearing hard truths about yourself without becoming defensive. Mentoring is about you taking control of your life and how you will live it, as well as achieving your goals and a high quality life. You should interview potential mentors and pick the one that challenges you the most, the one that can drive you to success.