In Greek mythology, Mentor was a friend of Odysseus, and was in charge of Odysseus’ son Telemachus, when Odysseus left for the Trojan War. Since Mentor parted wisdom and advice to Telemachus, his name later became a synonym for guidance and tutoring, in the English language.
Back in our times, mentoring and coaching get easily mixed up. Many people today take the role of coaches, but what they actually do is mentoring the client. On the other hand, a big part of Mentoring involves coaching as well.
So what is the difference between coaching and mentoring? Is there a difference at all?
Glad you asked, let’s check it out.
A mentor is someone who has “done it before”. He is the expert and he holds experience and knowledge on the field which the mentorship focuses on. A mentor would usually have the answers to questions that are being asked by the client, and would give advice that will help the client grow and understand more.
The relationship between the mentor and the client would probably go beyond the meetings and usual conversations. A mentor might introduce his client to his known associates if he thinks that the client would grow from such encounters. A mentor might also tell the client what the next steps should be in order to develop further.
A coach is someone who does not know all the answers. Moreover, the coach does not assume that he knows more than his client. In a coaching relationship, the client is the expert on his own life.
To ilustrate this concept, one of the basic pillars of the Co-Active coaching method (which i’m practicing) is that “people are naturally creative resourceful and whole“. Besides the obvious meaning, this also means that people are not broken. There is no need to fix them. The client is the one with the answers, and the only help needed, is showing the client how much he knows.
The coach is there to guide the client, and enable him to look inward and see that the answers were there the entire time. He asks powerful questions, and gently both he and the client uncover a direction or a solution to what the client wants to help and guidance in.
The similarities between coaching and mentoring are far greater than the differences. As there are many, below is the list of similarities I consider to be the major ones between coaching and mentoring:
- Both coaching and mentoring enable exploration of individual desires, needs and capabilities to enable a real change in the client’s life
- Both methods use questions in order to stimulate thought and decision processes to uncover desired solutions and actions
- In both mentoring and coaching, the coach/mentor observes the client and listens to him, in order to understand the situation from his point of view. This is also being done so the coach/mentor would be able to identify with the feelings that the client feels in that situation
- Both coach and mentor set appropriate goals together with the client
- Both methods develop and maintain accountability, and induce commitment on the client’s part to achieving the set goals
- Both methods encourage and maintain an attitude of personal growth and development from the client
- In both methods its vital that the coach/mentor would be non-judgmental towards the client’s views, opinions and lifestyle, and separate the coach’s/mentor’s personal agenda and views from those of the client.
- Both coach and mentor need to keep a supporting and positive attitude towards the client, and be on his side
- Both coach and mentor are required to manage the relationship with the client, to ensure that the client does not develop an unhealthy dependence with the coach/mentor
- Both coach and mentor evaluate the success of the goal achieving process, and continuously check whether the goal has been achieved
There are several main differences between coaching and mentoring. These include the below:
|A mentor is knowledgeable in the client’s field||A coach may not possess any knowledge in the client’s field|
|A mentor hears the client issues and gives advice||A coach doesn’t give advice. The answers come from the client itself|
|A mentor can only work in a field he has experience in, since advice which is given needs to be solid||A coach can coach on any field, since the client is the expert|
|Mentoring is long term and can last up to 9 months||Coaching is generally performed in shorter periods of several months|
|Mentoring usually requires design prior to the beginning of the relationship||Coaching does not require prior design. It can help in any field|
|A mentor might also become friends with the client||A coach is not the client’s friend. All though supportive and helping, he is there to help the client objectively|
Mentoring and coaching are not the same. All though they have more similarities than differences, they are two different things. The main difference is in the interaction between the coach, the mentor and the client. While mentoring parts advice and suggestions, coaching assumes that the client is the expert on his own life, and the coach helps in guiding the client to find those answers inside him.
I hope the post helped in understanding the difference between Mentoring and coaching. If you feel I left out something important, or have a story to share, let me know about it in the comments below!