Mentors are different than Coaches

Today’s world is very competitive. Leadership skills, staff relationships, time management, creativity, meeting control and focus, and stress management are just a few of the essentials in business and life skills. Coaching and mentoring both address these issues, but in very different ways. Let’s examine some of the differences.

A mentor relationship is normally a more personal one-on-one relationship. The mentor may serve as a sounding board. A mentor may share advice and experiences, but there is not expectation that you will follow the exact plan. It’s more about an exchange of ideas and information. There is more room for creativity. There probably aren’t specific performance goals attached to the conversations.

A coach is directing a person or team in a very specific direction. The coach is focusing on efficiency and passing out more constructive criticism. There are specific goals, deadlines and consequences. Think of a sports coach and the goal is to win the game. Everything you do in practice and with the coach is performed with that winning goal in mind.

A coach develops specific skills for the assignments, performance and skills needed at work. The mentor is more of a friend interested in your long term development as a person.

Strong interpersonal skills are needed for titles, the coach and the mentor. The approach is completely different. A coach has a level of authority and ultimately is it their job to enforce compliance. A mentor is a power free relationship. A mentor may have not credentials, but a good reputation.

What’s the pay off for a coach? It is centered around team performance and team harmony. It’s about achieving a goal and getting paid to get it done. The pay off for a mentor is more of a reciprocal relationship of learning and exchange of ideas.

Perhaps Matt Starcevich explains it in the clearest manner with this statement. “It there is still doubt in your mind visualize how the conversation and relationship would be different if your manager scheduled a coaching discussion at 2:00 this afternoon to discuss your roles, responsibilities and expectations, versus if you called your mentor to discuss some things that you and been thinking about.”

There is a place in any organization for both coaches and mentors. They should be used to their full potential to help associates reach company goals and become better people all around. One is not more important than the other, each serves a specific purpose that can be helpful.