A common question I get asked by prospective clients is whether I would be open to sharing my own experiences as a leader or what would I do in their situation? This is a sensible thing to ask when you are paying for a service and looking to maximise the return on your investment. However, many are unaware of how coaching differs to other forms of developmental support such as mentoring.
Clearing up the confusion
The root of this confusion is usually formed from an individuals’ personal experience of a career mentor. For example, perhaps you’ve historically received excellent guidance from a senior figure within your organisation and you are now looking to replicate that experience.
Additional confusion is created by the fact the word coaching is also used within many organisations as a blanket term for developmental training and career development. I myself look back at my career and realise I used the term coaching to describe by support of someone when in fact I was actually mentoring them.
A coaching arrangement will operate in many different ways to a mentoring relationship, with the main difference centred around advice giving something which is common in mentoring. As a result, I thought helpful to write a blog post that explains the difference between the two. I do however think it’s important to make clear that both could be extremely beneficial to your career, assuming you find the right and balance fit of course!
The distinct differences between coaching and mentoring
Starting with coaching, this relationship will tend to be a more formal and structured arrangement. The coach will look to understand your goals, aspirations, values, dreams and then partner with you help you achieve them. A coach will not look to share their personal experiences or give advice but instead focus on questioning to help you uncovered insights through your own thinking.
In contrast, a mentoring relationship can be both formal or informal but will usually tend to be a conversational informal relationship. A typical mentor will be an individual with more experienced than yourself, operating in a similar field, organisation and/or industry. They are motivated to help you develop and grow but achieve this through sharing their knowledge, skills and personal experiences. You will be able to share scenarios or situations with a mentor and ask for their opinions/views on how they might approach solving given their personal experiences.
Hopefully you are now empowered to make a decision
Now that you are empowered in the knowledge in the difference in the two relationships you can decided how each will best help your development. Remember it doesn’t have to be an either or as it could be a combination of the two.
About the author
Tomas Mason is an experienced Executive Coach specialising in leadership development. He trained with Henley Business School and is accredited by the EMCC. Prior to coaching Tom was a senior leader in the financial services sector.