Throughout my 25-years of experience as an Executive Leadership Coach, I have coached hundreds of leaders at all levels in the corporate world. I’ve also mentored dozens of Coaches looking to expand their impact, perspective and practices. I have shared my perspective on the distinctions between Coaching and Mentoring many times over the years, but after hearing the question again this week; I thought I would capture my thinking in writing.
TLDR - the two roles are highly inter-related and in some cases can be done effectively by the same person. They are highly complementary efforts and offer a powerful boost to anyone looking to accelerate their professional and personal growth. Their main differences lie in the focus of the work and the manner in which the parties interact and create learning.
What They Share
- Mentor/Coach who is personally invested in helping others
- A partnership between someone with deep subject matter expertise that can provide perspective and learning
- Both require a partnership with someone who is hungry to learn and grow and can be invaluable tools for developing individuals, teams, and organizations
- Both can help expand the partners network and connections
Where They Differ
- Many of the most significant benefits come from gaining a deeper self-awareness about one’s patterns of thinking and reacting
- Clarification of the Coachee’s strengths and growth opportunities and then the development of strategies and practices to create more effective approaches
- Primarily focused on questions and learning driven by inquiry that pushes the Coachee to think and consider situations differently. This is where Coach training and experience is most important
- The most effective Coaches lean heavily on first-hand behavioral observations rather than just feedback from others
- A Coach can share perspectives and learning from other leaders who navigated similar challenges
- A Coach is trained in sparking new ways of thinking, helping develop new skills and providing feedback in ways that don’t elicit defensive self-protective reactions
- A partnership that is time bound and focused on creating increased effectiveness in specific arenas
- Focused on career/professional development from a more experienced professional, typically in the Mentee’s area of expertise
- Advice on navigating specific professional challenges, such as managing teams, challenges with peers or making improved strategic decisions
- Working experience based again typically the Mentor is in the same field or company. Can provide invaluable perspective from “been there done that personally” credibility base
- A heavy focus on providing experience-based counsel regarding career growth strategies and better navigating common work challenges (structures, teams, peers, management)
- At its best, provides feedback on observed behaviors and patterns. In my experience (listening to numerous Mentees), this is not where most Mentors focus nor excel.
- Can provide long term support for personal growth and career development needs
These are both powerful tools to help maximize employee performance and potential and when combined with other development strategies such as training can produce dramatically increased employee/team contribution and satisfaction.