It’s often stated that everyone should have a mentor and that’s probably true. But not every situation requires a mentor. Sometimes having a coach is a better option.
People often confuse coaching and mentoring. Though related, they are not the same. A mentor may coach, but a coach does not mentor. Understanding the definition of mentoring is crucial. Mentoring is "relational," while coaching is "functional." There are other significant differences.
- Managers coach their staff as a required part of the job.
- Coaching takes place within the confines of a formal manager-employee relationship.
- The focus is to develop individuals within their current job.
- The interest of the relationship is functional, arising out of the need for individuals to perform the tasks required to the best of their ability.
- Managers tend to initiate and drive the relationship.
- The relationship is finite, ending when an individual has learned what the coach is teaching.
- It occurs outside of a line manager-employee relationship, at the mutual consent of a mentor and mentoree.
- It is career-focused or focused on professional development that may be outside a mentoree's area of work.
- Relationships are personal--a mentor provides both professional and personal support.
- Relationships may be initiated by mentors or created through matches initiated by the organization.
- Relationships cross job boundaries.
- Relationships last for a specific period of time (nine months to a year) in a formal program, at which point the pair may continue in an informal mentoring relationship.
If you need to develop a specific skill set or knowledge base and you need it critically--finding a coach is probably the best solution for you.
Mentoring by definition involves a long term relationship. Coaching does not. So if you need a quick answer or some quick assistance finding a coach may be the right solution for you.
For even more details on the differences between coaching and mentoring, download our FREE white paper, Coaching Vs. Mentoring: Detailed Insights From Management Mentors.