A little push to nudge us forward is in order once in a while, but should you seek a coach or mentor when you need help realizing your full potential?
For many people, coaching and mentoring are synonymous, but that’s not entirely correct. While they are both professional development tools to help people achieve peak performance, they use very different approaches and structures.
In this quick post, you’ll learn the differences between mentoring vs coaching, so you can pick the most suitable one for your needs.
Let’s kick off with the definitions.
Mentoring vs Coaching: Definitions
In simple terms, mentoring refers to a training system where a more experienced individual plays the role of a trusted advisor or mentor to a trainee or mentee.
Many organizations assign senior employees to act as mentors to junior workers. This is often an informal arrangement, although it is mutually beneficial for all the parties involved.
However, employees may work with more experienced individuals outside their organization as part of a leadership training program.
In any case, in a mentoring program, mentors guide, instruct, support, and offer suggestions to fine-tune mentees’ talents toward becoming the best versions of themselves. Mentors usually do more talking, instructing, and telling mentees what to do.
On the other hand, coaching involves a trained professional working to inspire clients to reach their personal and professional goals. Instead of doing most of the talking, a coach asks questions and allows the mentee to reflect and raise their awareness.
Here’s a concise way to describe the roles of a mentor and coach.
Mentoring involves talking with someone who already has the raw talent to go far in life and career but needs help getting there. On the other hand, coaching is talking to an individual to help them identify or clarify what they want and develop a plan to achieve it.
Mentors establish connections with mentees, actively listen to them, make suggestions, and provide useful information.
Conversely, coaches emphasize specific agendas and processes for reaching goals within a short timeframe.
Now that you know what both roles are, let’s look at the key differences between mentoring vs coaching to help you choose the right one for your needs.
Differences Between Mentoring and Coaching
Mentoring focuses on the professional’s overall career development rather than proffering solutions for improving only their current job function.
The focus of coaching is mainly on improving a professional’s on-the-job performance.
Mentoring uses a more informal, self-directed structure based largely on the mentee’s needs. Coaching uses a more formal and structured approach to clarify clients’ goals and develop actionable plans to reach the identified goals.
Mentoring relationships are often longer, lasting up to a year, decade, or even a lifetime in some cases.
Coaching is often short-term, usually lasting no more than a year. However, coaching can extend beyond a year if more time is required to achieve the desired goals.
Mentors don’t require any specific qualification for mentoring. They need vast experience in their field and the capacity to impact knowledge.
Although there are no specific qualifications for coaching, coaches are trained professionals with certification from accredited coaching programs.
The most important outcome in mentoring is the mentee’s overall development. There is less emphasis on specific goals because the desired results may change depending on the mentee’s experience at different stages.
Coaching has specific outcomes from the beginning, so it is easy to measure progress and determine whether or not the trainee is working toward the original goal.
Mentors usually pass on their knowledge on a volunteer basis. This is especially true if the mentor and mentee are within the same organization. Coaches are usually compensated for their services.
When to Use a Mentor
Organizations use mentoring to transfer key skills or knowledge from senior professionals with plenty of experience to junior professionals. Establishing a mentoring relationship as part of leadership training enhances leadership development in professionals who’ve shown a lot of promise.
Also, it is common for organizations to use a mentoring program to nudge junior professionals to focus on career development and introduce them to certain roles and positions.
Given the above, you should consider entering a mentoring relationship with an experienced mentor if:
- You are new to an organization or field and need guidance from a more experienced person.
- You admire someone’s personal or professional success and want to achieve similar results.
- You want inspiration about what’s possible in your life or career.
- You need to learn directly from someone with the type of knowledge and experience you want.
When to Use a Coach
Individuals often opt to work with coaches when a one-on-one session is preferred over public training programs. A coaching relationship works for high-profile individuals as well as leaders in organizations.
Organizations hire coaches when there is a need to develop new skills or improve the skills of experienced professionals and prepare them for higher roles. Coaching also helps professionals who struggle to meet organizational goals by modifying behavior to produce specific results.
With the above in mind, you should consider working with a coach if:
- You want to accomplish specific goals but need professional assistance smashing those goals
- Your performance doesn’t meet your organization’s expectations
- You need to develop a new or specific skill to accomplish specific goals
Mentoring vs Coaching: Which Do You Need?
Your choice between a mentoring program or coaching program will depend on the assistance you need and where you are in your career. It is not uncommon to have multiple mentors or coaches as you progress in your career. The goal is to help you reach various goals at different stages of your personal and professional life.
Mentoring is an ideal choice for talented junior professionals with great potential who want to work on their personal development. A mentor can groom them into becoming the best candidates for future leadership positions.
On the other hand, professionals who have hazy goals or struggle to overcome certain hindrances will do well to work with a coaching session to clarify their specific goal and create plans to achieve them.