The Difference Between A Mentor And A Coach And How Do I Engage One?

The Difference Between A Mentor And A Coach

Mentoring and coaching are different, although are often thought to be the same. Frequently any mention of mentor and coach in the same sentence invokes confusion – which is precisely the situation I want to change. I enjoyed the benefit of several mentors throughout my career as a Department of the Army Civilian, yet I hired a coach when I had specific professional issues I wanted to resolve. By way of comparison, I have heard tell that Tiger Woods (the golf pro) benefits from the sage mentorship of those who came before him, such as Jack Nicklaus. However, when he wants to address specific issues, such as his stance or backswing, he hires a coach to help improve his game.

For simplicity sake, mentoring occurs off-line when one person extends unconditionally to another significant professional insight. The relationship is loosely defined, and either the mentor or the mentee can initiate the relationship. A mentor is usually someone older and more professionally advanced, whom you look up to for guidance and who may serve as a sounding board for exploring professional decisions, such as career direction. When you elect to have a mentor, it is most likely because you think the mentor has experience you can draw from.

In contrast, the process of coaching enables learning and development to occur and thus performance improves. For simplicity sake, coaching occurs when one person extends conditionally (under contract) to another a significant learning experience. The engagement is defined, and the coachee initiates the relationship. Coaching is “just in time” learning, serving to set better goals, make better decisions, and improve your performance! A coach’s job is to get you unstuck by employing tools designed to help you find what drives you, where you want to go, and the best way to get there. To become an authentic coach requires specific knowledge of the coaching process, and the selection of styles, skills, tools and techniques, appropriate to the context in which the coaching is required. There is a variety of training programs for coaches to formalize our skills and become adept at our trade. Additionally, coaches can achieve professional certification, which demonstrates our knowledge and skill, and our commitment to high professional standards and a strong code of ethics.

As you can see coaching and mentoring are alike in many ways, yet they are different relationships. Both coaches and mentors can help you achieve professional success. Be open to making a mentor and/or coach a capacity building part of your professional toolbox.

How Do I Engage A Mentor Or A Coach?

We recognize the challenges professionals face in sourcing, selecting, and contracting the best professional for their needs. Many mentors too are often confused by the boundaries of the relationship, while coaches dream of being retained by informed clients who already understand the coaching process. Being clear in what you want to accomplish through either a mentoring or coaching relationship will improve the output.

However, as widespread as the phenomenon of mentoring and coaching have become, there is still a lot of mystery surrounding respective purposes and the process of sourcing and engaging the mentoring or coaching relationship. Most mentors and coaches recognize that although many employees desire a fulfilling worklife, wherein they can achieve autonomy, mastery, and purpose, not everyone knows how to achieve this ideal work life. Engaging a mentor or hiring a coach is a step in the right direction. Knowing how to source and contract for services is as important as being mentored or coached. The following tips offers a quick immersion into what you need to know on a personal level to engage a mentor or secure coaching services.

The Top-Five-Tips For Engaging A Mentor Include;

1. Understand what a mentor does.
2. Understand where mentors come from.
3. Ask a potential mentor about his mentoring and mentee experiences.
4. Invest in the relationship – understand that it goes both ways – and appreciate the value.
5. Understand that you may outgrow the relationship, so prepare to retire it gracefully.

The Top-Five-Tips For Engaging A Coach Include;

1. Understand what an authentic coach does.
2. Understand where authentic coaches come from.
3. Ask a potential authentic coach about his level of expertise.
4. Invest in yourself – understand the difference between value and price – and pay for value.
5. Expect a written agreement.

Although enduring an unfulfilled, challenging, or limited work life is painful, you can begin to solve your problems by engaging a mentor or a coach. You now know that you can make your work life more fulfilling, you can achieve personal autonomy, mastery, purpose, and you can become your highest and best work self by adding both mentoring and coaching to your toolbox.

Executive Coaching and Business Coaching, What’s the Difference?

Although the coaching profession is relatively young, there is some confusion regarding the various disciplines. Until today there are no universally accepted definitions.

When you search for a coach using the Referral Service of the International Coach Federation, the world’s leading coaching organization, you can choose from the following categories:

  • Corporate Coaching
  • Small Business Coaching
  • Personal Coaching
  • Career Coaching

In each of the categories you will find various professionals, e.g. Executive Coaches, Business Coaches, Life Coaches,… As an Executive Coach, you will find me in the first category “corporate coaching”. Nevertheless, I am also a kind of Personal Coach for many Executives.

“What’s the difference between an Executive Coach and a Business Coach?” I am often asked.

As an Executive Coach, I am hired by corporations to work with their Directors, Vice Presidents, Managing Directors, or other senior leaders. Of course these corporations want to see a return on investment. Obviously an attractive ROI will only be achieved when the program results in improved business performance.

However, I never work with my clients on business performance directly, at least not as the top priority. This would be the arena of the Business Coaches. They will most likely focus on strategy, financial results, or the like. Often the client will expect a business coach to have expertise in their particular industry.

For my clients it is important that I have corporate experience, that I have been in their shoes so to say. An understanding of their specific business may be a nice add-on, but it is not required. The reason is that I focus on personal development rather than on business results. As an Executive Coach I facilitate change in the coachee’s behavior. This behavioral change often involves personal effectiveness as well as interaction with others.

Ultimately these changes will lead to improved individual performance, improved team performance, and, as a consequence, to improved organizational performance. In summary, executive coaching is expected to deliver better business results just like business coaching; the executive approach however is more indirect than the business one. Executive Coaching focuses on people and their development. Better business results will follow.

Why do people hire an Executive Coach?

The challenges senior managers are facing in today’s hectic business world are innumerable, and accordingly there are many reasons why executives are working with professional coaches. Most of my assignments are designed to support managers in the following areas:

  • developing leadership & management skills
  • facilitating transition to a higher management level/new assignment
  • building successful teams
  • managing & inspiring people
  • improving personal effectiveness & time management
  • communicating with impact
  • cross-cultural leadership effectiveness
  • improving work-life balance

All in all one could say that my Executive Coaching is about harnessing the full potential of leaders and their teams in an effective, ethical, and respectful way. Managers transform into great leaders who are enthusiastic about their work and inspire others. As a result, individuals improve performance, and teams achieve sustainable success.