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COACHING and MENTORING

I have been asked the question a number of times, “What is the difference between coaching and mentoring?” Based on some of the research that I had done, I felt that I was in a very good position to answer that question. I decided however, that perhaps I should see what else is out there for research on that very same question. What do you think is the difference, are they so similar that we have just named the same function twice?

So before we begin the debate on this topic, let’s first look at who the beneficiary is of either one or both of these two functions. The recipient of either a coaching experience or a mentoring experience is obviously the recipient, however I would suggest that if a relationship is established, then the learning experience will become a two way process where both parties will benefit. If we are agreed on that point then we can move on to the next part of our debate.

As I scanned the research, of which I might add there is lots of on the topic of mentoring versus coaching one thing seemed to grab my attention. I found that opinions were varied on the differences between the two. Even more interesting was the movement of key functions back and forth between coaching and mentoring. For example, one article indicated that coaching was about personal growth and asking questions, while another said the same thing for mentoring. In each of those cases the research discounted the other from being able to provide those same functions.

Imagine the dilemma one would have if you were trying to choose which field you wished to become involved in, or even worse you were a young professional trying to sort out whether you needed a coach or a mentor or both!

So let’s look at this from the standpoint of what it takes to be a good leader. From my perspective, our goal here is to develop the future leaders of tomorrow. We need to be cognizant of what we are looking for in a good leader. Leaders do not have subordinates – at least not when they are leading. Many organizational leaders do have subordinates, but only because they are also managers. But when they want to lead, they have to give up formal authoritarian control, because to lead is to have followers, and following is always a voluntary activity.

Telling people what to do does not inspire them to follow you. You have to appeal to them, showing how following them will lead to their hearts’ desire. They must want to follow you enough to stop what they are doing and perhaps walk into danger and situations that they would not normally consider risking. Leaders with a stronger charisma find it easier to attract people to their cause. As a part of their persuasion they typically promise transformational benefits, such that their followers will not just receive extrinsic rewards but will somehow become better people.

 

So based on what I have seen, if you want to become one of our future leaders of tomorrow, having a mentor is likely a very good thing. Mentors if properly trained will be asking questions and not telling you what to do. They will be focused on developing your critical thinking skills. Mentors will be focused on your professional and personal growth as the two are very much intertwined. Having said all of that I also believe that there are places for you to take on a coach – but you need to make sure you know what it is that you want. If you need to develop a relationship with a mentor, make sure that they are properly trained and are doing this for the right reasons. Don’t be afraid to ask the questions.

 

There are differences between coaching and mentoring. I believe that each can provide you with something very powerful. You need to search out providers of each service and take the time to find out what they will do for you. If your organization has or is talking about implementing a mentor program, become an advocate to make sure the program is implemented and continues to evolve. If you are a young professional who aspires to become one of your needed future leaders of tomorrow, then take the first step and seek out a good mentor. Watch your professional and personal growth climb to new levels through the “power of mentoring.”