Coaching & Mentoring – What’s the Difference?

November 29, 2013 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ Life Coaching Articles


A Life Coach or a Mentor?

Ann Rolfe Mentor

Coaching & Mentoring – What’s the Difference?

By Ann Rolfe

Coaching and mentoring are not the same, though the differences are subtle and those who coach and those who mentor use similar skills.

The terms “mentor” and “coach” are often used interchangeably. Although most references agree there are differences between the two, descriptions of the roles are not uniform. So, since ideas about coaching generally derive from sporting models and mentoring is more often associated with careers, the following definitions may be useful:

Coach: a person who trains, tutors or prepares an individual for improved skill and performance

Mentor:one who guides and stimulates an individual’s reflection and actions for improved personal and professional outcomes.

Mentoring and coaching both:

Provide one-to-one interaction to achieve personalised learning and growth;

Cater to individual needs, personal styles and time constraints;

Can be conducted face to face or from remote locations;

Complement formal training and educational experiences;

Process real-life issues, problems and decisions;

Facilitate access to information and choices about new behaviours and actions;

Support the achievement of positive outcomes.

Coaching is used when there is a well-defined goal that is based on improving skills and performance.

Mentoring is appropriate for career planning, providing general guidance, setting and achieving goals, making decisions or facilitating problem solving.

Mentors and coaches use very similar skills. Rapport, trust and respect are needed for a satisfying relationship. Communication, observation, and feedback are features of both. Guidance and advice may be offered and practical rather than theoretical solutions to challenges are sought.

The roles of mentor, coach and even instructor, may merge sometimes. Within a mentoring relationship, coaching and instruction may occur at the invitation of the person being mentored. Coaches and instructors often act as mentors as they work with clients. What is important in working with a mentor or coach is negotiating the scope and style of the relationship from the outset.

When to Choose a Mentor/ When to Choose a Coach

If you are clear that your development need requires the personalised approach, you must decide whether coaching or mentoring is more appropriate for you.

Get a Coach when you have a well-defined goal that is based on improving skills and performance.

Find a Mentor when you want to discuss broad career issues, seek general guidance, or need to clarify development goals, make decisions or solve problems for yourself.

A direct supervisor may coach you because they have a responsibility for performance management. However, mentoring is usually “off-line”. In other words, the mentor is not someone above you in a direct line of authority. A mentor could be a peer, or someone more or less senior, within or outside of your workplace.

Ann Rolfe is the founder of Mentoring Works. She has over twenty-five years experience in learning and development and sixteen years specializing in mentoring.

Ann Rolfe has been instrumental is setting up mentoring programs and training people in fields as diverse as health, construction, energy, communications, law and government. She has spoken at national and international conferences in Australia, Singapore and USA.

Free ebook Mentoring Demystified and newsletter plus access Ann Rolfe’s books, online learning centre and mentoring network

Ann Rolfe, the author of:

The Mentoring Conversation
The Mentoring Guide
The Mentoring Journal
Take a Minute To Mentor
How To Design and Run Your Own Mentoring Program
Mentoring Demystified
Mentoring Tips

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