What is the Difference between Coaching and Mentoring?
Source: forbes.com, sites/infosys/2011/12/20/business-leadership-for-smarter-org-2
The ultimate purpose of either coaching or mentoring is to enhance the knowledge, skills, and abilities of individuals so that they can increase their performance on the task for which they receive coaching or mentoring. It is well worth the effort to differentiate between the two. The difference need not be the focus of the conversation but a leader must be able to sense this and respond accordingly.
What’s the focus?
For a coach, the task at hand is most important. The coach has to help the person learn the requisite attitude, behavior and skills needed to perform the job successfully within the agreed success parameters. The task is therefore well defined and the conversation happens with a clear focus and specific timelines.
Mentoring focuses on the individual and the conversation transcends more broadly into the general work life. This means the interaction can be more philosophical, more focused on attitudes and behaviors than on specific skills. Of course, these talks could also have the same level of focus and timelines but the entire individual is the topic of discussion and exploration and not just a specific task.
The role of the coach is to create a specific agenda, split the task into manageable sub-tasks which have clear skill components and look at the different ways a person can learn them. Research shows that actual experiences are the most effective learning tools. Training programs only benefit when the newly trained person goes back to work in an environment that has also been appropriately modified.
Coaching is not synonymous with training. Training can be one component of a larger coaching initiative. Mentoring can, by definition, be more abstract. Mentoring also happens largely through relating the anecdotes of the mentor.
Both mentoring and coaching have their use in the leadership interventions of organizations, but leaders need to be clear about what they are doing, what the other person needs, and what the situation needs.