Yet, whilst there are some clear similarities between the two, both coaching and mentoring have distinct boundaries and purposes.
Having an understanding of these differences between is pivotal in understanding what will serve your needs most effectively. In any life coach training you decide to pursue, the course should help make perfectly clear what the distinction is between coaching and mentoring.
So, what are the main differences?
Advice and Method #
While coaching and mentoring relationships are both based on mutual trust, they differ in their dynamic and approach.
Coaching operates on the premise that each of us is inherently whole and has the answers within us. It is generally also based on the idea that the coach doesn’t have to be an expert in the specific industry, company or area of interest a client may be involved in.
As such, a coach offers a space for someone to find their own answers and ways forward with the coach acting as a catalyst for this discovery through questions, reflections and feedback. The coach is at all times non-judgemental of the client, their views, lifestyle and aspirations. Together with a coach you can expect to set goals or explore key outcomes and, from there, take a journey of discovery. A good way of looking at a coach is to think of someone holding a mirror up to you and therefore allowing you to get to know yourself better.
Mentoring, in contrast, usually takes a more hands-on, directive approach to the client’s advancement. Traditionally, mentors were assigned within a company to help newer employees, or those in a new role, learn the ropes. A mentor will generally have more knowledge, skills, and experience in their particular field than the person they are mentoring, and they share this wisdom openly. They may also help their mentee develop key industry contacts, identify specific helpful resources, and explore and advise around careers. The critical thing here is that you are expecting greater experience, knowledge, guidance and advice from a mentor. There is also a clear, if sometimes informal, sense of authority in a mentoring relationship.
When exploring the difference between coaching and mentoring, it’s worth remembering that one is not inherently better than one another. Indeed, it’s possible to have a coach who serves the role of both coach and mentor. In fact, the coaches-in-training through Animas receive mentoring sessions with our Animas coach mentors to pull on the knowledge that they have accumulated over years of coaching, so we know from experience that there can be a really beneficial overlap between the two.
It’s important, however, for both parties to have a clear understanding from the outset about what form the relationship will take, what the goals are, and even be clear which of the two ‘hats’ – coaching or mentoring – is being worn during individual sessions.
Length Of Relationship #
Another difference between coaching and mentoring lies in the duration of the relationship.
Coaching can last as long as the coach and client feel it is beneficial but in practice coaching tends to be a relatively short-term process, often consisting of 6-10 sessions.
Mentoring on the other hand can last for years. It tends to be informal and free based on the desire to make use of their experience.
In recent, mentoring has taken on a professional status with business mentors charging substantial fees for their support. However, in this article we are referring more to traditional forms of mentoring.
Why Consider Using A Coach #
So we have established that both mentoring and coaching relationships can be beneficial for an individual based on their needs, but why should you consider a coach over a mentor?
Well, firstly, the limitations around mentoring are that it is based on the knowledge and skills of the mentor. This means that you can’t necessarily take any problem to the same mentor, because often their knowledge and experience are very specific. However, a coach will be able to help you explore whatever is coming up for you since they are not a subject matter expert but an expert as facilitating your thinking.
If you have a specific personal problem that needs an impartial eye, non-judgemental reflection and room to allow change, then a coach can be the answer. Similarly, if your organisation is experiencing gaps between the talent they have and the talent they need, then a workplace coach might be useful.
Ultimately, finding the right coach or mentor for you can be invaluable for the future, so it is important to have an understanding of what both dynamics will offer you, and getting clear on what you are looking for from the relationship.
If you decide that you would like to find yourself a coach, this article around how to find a life coach should be helpful in addressing some of the key things to consider when beginning your search for a coach that is right for you.