LifeXchange

What’s the Difference Between Mentoring and Coaching in the Workplace?

4 Similarities, 7 differences and getting the best of both in your business

Internal support VS external expertise, and dynamically evolving processes for creating real change in business. People often confuse mentoring and coaching, which can make things inefficient and costly. So, we bring you the similarities and differences between mentoring and coaching in the workplace to help you make more effective decisions.

Note: We’re hosting a free mentoring vs coaching webinar.

WHAT IS MENTORING?

One of the oldest and most tried-and-tested ways to transform lives and guide each other towards a path of success and purpose, mentoring is a hallmark in the lives of some of the most successful people on Earth: Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Stephen Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey, Richard Branson – they all owe mentorship to theirs and others’ successes.

In its most basic form, mentoring can be an experienced person building a relationship with a less experienced person to help steer them toward their goal. It’s more informal, and it usually encompasses a more holistic, life-skills orientated approach (not just job-specific guidance). And every business in the world is the ideal place to run a mentorship programme. Discover how in our post on What is mentoring?

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Mentoring is long-term, can be informal and focuses on holistic change through trust and relationships.

Plus: Discover the 21 amazing benefits of mentoring, too.

WHAT IS COACHING?

Coaching is slightly more formal and structured than mentoring. Though it often has the same goal – to equip the coachee with the tools and ability to bring about real change in their own life – it does this in a slightly different way to mentoring.

One of the hallmarks of coaching, especially in business, is that the coach is often an external expert in life skills, goal setting and so forth, who doesn’t necessarily work in the company, or even in the same field, sector or industry as the person they are coaching. They don’t need to. Their expertise is in planning, structuring and building towards success in any field.

Coaching is more formal and professional, mid- to long-term and has a specific goal in mind.

For example, we at LifeXchange Solutions use both of these types of programmes. We help create mentorship programmes within companies – see our neuro mentoring training – and we also facilitate strategic organisational; changes in businesses. That’s why many of our business solutions also feature a coaching element, especially our development based on strengths.

4 SIMILARITIES BETWEEN MENTORING AND COACHING

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FOCUSED ON THE FUTURE AND CREATING CHANGE

Both mentoring and coaching seek to develop the individual through a close relationship (about 1 year in coaching, and often 3–5 years or more in the case of mentoring). It’s forward-looking, focused on what we can do with the current to move towards where the person’s potential lies. And both seek transformation and growth.

ABOUT EMPOWERING, NOT “HEALING”

Speaking of looking forward, it’s important to note that coaching and mentoring are not intended as therapy (healing the wounds of the past). It’s about empowering people to achieve and thrive. Although coaching often has a more specific focus – perhaps improving performance in a certain field – while mentoring has a deeper, more holistic life-and-career focus, neither of them should be considered therapeutic – which usually looks back to heal the wounds of the past.

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Both mentoring and coaching are dynamic and customisable to individuals or teams.

THERE’S AN AGREEMENT BETWEEN PARTIES

In both mentoring and coaching, all individuals create an agreement between themselves before the process starts. In coaching, both parties meet to assess compatibility and then draft an agreement that outlines the goals of the coaching. This said, the relationship usually remains strictly professional, and the coach remains the expert on the structure of the process.

With mentoring, the agreement helps set the tone and, importantly, can influence the structure of the process, based on what works for the individuals. Even the nature of their relationship is fluid and can be defined in the agreement. 

BOTH DYNAMIC AND EVOLVING PROCESSES

All that said, both mentoring and coaching are quite dynamic and things can change depending on what’s needed. With coaching, where the coach provides a structure for helping the coachee find their potential and improve performance, the content of their sessions is entirely dependent on the coachee. The coachee’s own abilities and skills are what the coach wants to unearth, so that makes every relationship and programme unique.

It’s the same with mentoring. Because mentoring requires a much deeper level of trust and relationship, every single mentor-mentee relationship is unique. That means you often start off with a plan, but as you go through the process you have to adapt to what works for everyone. It’s dynamic.

7 DIFFERENCES BETWEEN MENTORING AND COACHING

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INTERNAL VS EXTERNAL

Possibly the biggest difference between mentoring and coaching is that a mentor often has experience in line with where the mentee’s going – often in the same company, same job type, same industry etc. In coaching, the coach has a specific process that they follow to unearth and develop skills, so the coach doesn’t need to even be in the same industry, company or career type as the coachee.

This is actually very important in the context of a company. Because a coach often comes from outside (and you pay them) and then leaves. And if the people they had coached leaves, well then that’s the end of the value for your company.

But a mentoring programme is created inside your company, with your own people, so they know your company form the inside and because they stay on, they keep delivering value. It even grows as you get new employees.

Now that’s important when you start talking about sustainability because mentoring almost becomes self-sustaining (if every employee becomes part of the programme). That’s why we say coaching is probably better for very specific and practical applications, while mentoring is for the long-term stuff like your company culture.

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TIME COMMITMENT

Coaching is a medium-term project, usually measured in months or up to a year max. But mentoring is long-term. The minimum time for a mentor-mentee relationship is 1 year, but there’s loads of science that show the longer the relationship, the more effective it is. Most people agree that a mentoring relationship can be 3 to 5 years long. In some cases, even longer.

COACHING OFTEN HAS A SPECIFIC GOAL

Though coaching is much broader, it helps to imagine sports: A coach usually helps you win a season or prep for the Olympics, something that starts and ends. In business, a coach might help your sales team reach a certain target.

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Coaching often has a goal or endpoint, whereas mentoring is continuous and evolving.

FORMAL VS INFORMAL

Coaching always remains professional. It maintains a professional relationship with agreed-upon boundaries and outcomes. Mentoring is by nature a little deeper, often encompassing business but also life skills. As such, mentoring often requires building trust and understanding, which means getting to know each other on a more personal level. And that can be outside of work, too, and more informal.

MENTORS OFTEN HAVE HANDS-ON EXPERIENCE IN THE SAME COMPANY

Again, a coach can be external to the company, so there’s always some degree of them not fully knowing how you “do things in this company”. A mentor, on the other hand, comes from inside your own company, so they know the mentee’s environment.

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Mentoring seeks to cause the change in such a way that the person can drive themselves in future.

MENTORING TAKES A HOLISTIC LONG-TERM FOCUS

Where coaching often has a specific/immediate goal. Mentoring is more holistic, it’s about your entire career and balancing that with life. In a sports analogy, the mentor is more like the golfer’s caddy who’s always there to give advice.

A business analogy here is: Coaching is great for optimising you in your current job. Mentoring develops you for your entire career, in this job and every one after that.

MENTORING IS ONE-ON-ONE

Coaches can take on entire teams at a time. The structure and formal relationships mean one coach can work with many – no need to develop too much trust and relationship. Mentoring, however, is one-on-one and in-depth. The results are often deeper and more long-term.

MENTORING AND COACHING IN THE WORKPLACE

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Both can have a huge impact on your business, in different ways. For example, coaching is great for introducing a new system or way of thinking – we use it as part of our strengths-based development.

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And for the longer-term, sustainable business change and growth, see LifeXchange Solutions’ neuro mentoring training.

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Got a coaching or mentoring question? Ask us.


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