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General Leadership

The Difference Between Coaching and Mentoring

Sometimes, it can feel like the world of professional development is filled with jargon. You’ve got coaching, mentoring, training, workshops, seminars, webinars… the list goes on. For some, the line between coaching and mentoring can seem quite blurred. However, despite the similarities and the fact that the two terms are often used interchangeably, coaching and mentoring are not the same thing.

Ready to explore the distinction between these two terms? Let’s dive in!

Coaching Defined

The main focus of coaching is improving performance in a specific area. Let’s say you’re a manager and you want to become better at public speaking. You might hire a coach who specializes in this area to help you improve your presentation skills.

A coach uses a structured, one-on-one approach to train an individual and enhance their skills in a particular area. This could happen at the workplace or outside of the workplace. The coach will usually set or suggest goals for you and measure your performance as you develop new skills. Throughout this process, building a good working relationship is crucial for the coach and the learner.

Mentoring Defined

On the other hand, mentoring is more about personal development. It typically involves a long-term relationship between an experienced individual (mentor) and a less experienced individual (mentee). The mentor imparts their knowledge and advice to the mentee, helping them to grow both personally and professionally.

Unlike coaching, mentoring isn’t focused on specific tasks or objectives. Instead, the mentor helps the mentee discover their own wisdom, guiding them towards their career goals or helping them to become self-reliant.

Mentoring relationships are mutually beneficial. The mentor and the mentee learn from each other and aid each other in their development. Often, bonds formed through mentoring are strong and enduring, lasting beyond the mentoring relationship itself.

Picking Apart The Differences

You might still be thinking, “well, these definitions sound pretty similar to me!” So let’s highlight some crucial differences:

  • Focus: Coaches focus on improving specific skills or tasks while mentors focus on overall personal and career growth.
  • Relationship duration: Coaching is usually short-term and task-oriented, while mentoring is typically a long-term relationship providing ongoing support and guidance.
  • Relationship type: Coaches carry out their roles through a professional contract while mentors usually volunteer their time out of personal interest in their mentee’s development.
  • Goal setting: Coaches usually set goals for the individual; in mentoring, the individual (mentee) sets their own growth and development goals.

The Bottom Line

In a nutshell, while both mentoring and coaching play critical roles in personal and professional development, they serve fundamentally different purposes. Coaching is about skill and performance improvement in a specific area. Mentoring, on the other hand, involves a holistic approach to personal and career growth.

Whether you choose to work with a mentor or a coach, the important thing is that you’re taking steps to grow and develop, and that’s definitely something to be proud of!

Max Johnson

Max Johnson is currently a Vice President at a Fortunate 100 company. He has also held multiple leadership positions at two startups previously. When he is not busy working, you can find him surfing at the beach or skiing in the mountains.

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