How is coaching supervision different from coach mentoring?

Coaching supervision and coach mentoring are often used synonymously but in fact they are different in some important ways.  This article sets out to explore these differences whilst pointing to the key similarities.

Defining coaching supervision and coach mentoring

To start off, let’s define coaching supervision.  At Animas, we describe it this way:

Coaching supervision is a collaborative, developmental conversation between a coach and supervisor (typically a more experienced coach) focused on the coach’s professional work for the benefit of them, their client and the client’s system.

Coach mentoring is somewhat different and our definition of this is as follows:

Coach mentoring is a conversation in which a coach is supported by a more experienced coach to meet and demonstrate agreed norms, practices and competencies laid out by a professional body, training organisation or other externally described standard. 

Coaching supervision and coach mentoring clearly share much in common. Both are conversational, both focus on a coach’s professional practice, both are supportive and developmental, both draw on the knowledge and skills of a more experienced coach, both help improve the outcomes from coaching and the standing of the profession as a whole.

And there are key differences too.

As our above definition states, from our point of view, coach mentoring is guided by an external set of standards which the coach is aiming to meet.  Every student coach at Animas has a coach mentor whose primary, though not exclusive, role is to support the coach in reaching a standard of coaching that will ensure qualification on the course.  Likewise, coach mentoring for ICF credentialing is specifically focused on the ICF’s 11 Core Competencies.

Mentoring is often associated with supporting people to progress in a particular field more effectively and efficiently and this is true in coach mentoring too.

It would be fair to say, therefore, that coach mentoring tends to be more directive, more prescriptive, more outcome-focused and shorter-term than coaching supervision.

Coaching supervision, on the other hand, is broader and deeper in its remit.  Rather than focusing primarily on meeting external standards, it is more interested in the coach’s and client’s experience of the coaching.  The focus tends to fall less on specific predefined competencies and more on the quality of the coaching relationship, the outcomes, the coach’s wider development and sense of wellbeing and the surfacing of new avenues for exploration.

With its three-pronged focus of the normative, formative and restorative functions, coaching supervision offers a space for life-long coach development where coach mentoring tends to be for shorter term purposes of meeting a certain level of demonstrable development.

As described in another article, “What is coaching supervision?“, coaching supervision is also more systemic than coach mentoring which focuses almost exclusively on the coach’s competency against standards.

The professional bodies’ views on coach mentoring versus coaching supervision

There is currently no one view on coaching supervision versus coach mentoring across the professional coaching bodies.

The International Coach Federation is the largest coaching professional body in the world and it would be fair to say it places a preference on coach mentoring over coaching supervision.  The ICF have an excellent, flexible and clear set of competencies that guide how a coach should work and they encourage coach mentoring towards meeting these standards.  Credentials are achieved through training, practice and mentoring rather than supervision. However, the ICF does recognise the benefits of supervision for longer term development and have recently recognised supervision as CPD – see here.

Other professional bodies tend to have a preference for supervision with its wider focus on the coaching relationship and context and the Association for Coaching, EMCC and APECS all encourage, or require, some form of supervision.

Is one better than the other?

The answer to this is “it depends”! Coaching supervision and coach mentoring serve different needs and knowing what you want from the support is vital.

Should you be seeking to meet specific standards and to be able to demonstrate this, then coach mentoring is almost certainly the right approach – although, of course, the coach mentor would need to be able to guide you on the specific path you are following whether that’s in training or towards credentials.

If you are looking for broader and deeper support and development of your coaching then coaching supervision is likely to be the right path for you.

EMCC Accredited Diploma in Coaching Supervision

To find out more about the Animas Accredited Diploma in Coaching Supervision, head along to our course page.