Monday, January 12, 2015

Is there a difference between Mentors and Coaches?

Entrepreneurs who want to market their mentoring and coaching skills may want to brand themselves as either a coach or mentor. Conversely, individuals looking to enhance their own skills may be in search of a coach or mentor. This can be problematic as these terms are often used interchangeably when they should use a clear definition of mentoring and coaching. Confusing them can lead to wasted time and money. Knowing the difference between a coach and a mentor will help you create an effective educational environment.

The Definitions of Mentoring and Coaching
Mentor: A wise, authoritative and trusted counselor or teacher, an influential senior sponsor.
Coach: A tutor, trainer or instructor in any discipline who works with groups or an individual.

These dictionary definitions are a good place to start on the topic of mentoring and coaching skills, but we need a more nuanced view of the difference to make informed decisions. It will be necessary to broaden our definition of mentoring and coaching.

The Three Differentiators
Task v Relationship
- Coaching is oriented toward tasks, concrete-specific areas regarding technique refinement and the details of performance. A coach must have a technical expertise on the fine details of the task.
- Mentoring is first concerned with the rapport between the teacher and the student. A mentor creates a safe environment where learning from mistakes is possible without shame or failure. A mentor helps the student develop self-awareness, so that through mastering the discipline wisdom develops.

Short Term v Long Term
- Coaching is brief. Dealing in a series simple tasks building into a sophisticated skill set, once the coach has imparted this, the coaching relationship may come to an end. Coaching is often done in preparation for an event where performance is critical.
- Mentoring is long-term. The relationship between mentor and student must span a period of time sufficient for personal growth to take place. It is expected the student will achieve a broadened perspective on the subject. She will come to see how the thing she studies fits into the broader culture at large and her place and potential within it. For this, the patience of a mentor is needed.

Skill v Understanding
- Coaching is concerned with skills, the refinement of sensory-motor functions, key strategies and methods. Once the student has mastered these skills, the coach may move on to another set of skills or declare the student proficient.
- Mentoring, by contrast, aims to teach the student knowledge that will apply more broadly to more than a specific job- to achieve the competence to be successful in a career.

Specific Considerations

When to Coach:
- When training specific skills
- When working with a team of individuals, as in an office
- When new equipment or knowledge in a discipline has come to fore

When to Mentor
- When facilitating the development of leaders
- When developing skill diversity
- When it is desirable to retain team skills in a workforce with turnover issues
- When learning to balance professional and personal skills and issues

But What is Coaching and Mentoring as it Relates to Me?

If, after making all these considerations, you are still uncertain whether coaching or mentoring is right for the needs of you or your student, consider the end goal. Is your objective competence or mastery? The answer to the question, what is coaching and mentoring simply consider those terms. These terms epitomize the difference between the respective roles of a coach and a mentor.

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