Coach vs mentor

No-one is perfect. No-one knows everything. And there are times when even Google doesn’t have the answer! Understanding what a good coach and mentor can do to bring your ‘A game’ to the fore is important. This short guide provides a reminder of the basics and also introduces the concept of leaders as coaches for their teams.

Coach vs Mentor

It is easy to confuse these two roles; they share many of the same characteristics of listening, questioning, goal setting, building trust, providing feedback and creating plans, yet have very different purposes and outcomes.

Coaching is about self-exploration and discovery to find a solution, a coach provides the process or framework (the how) to do this and the coachee brings the expert knowledge of the subject matter (the what). This can be a relatively short-term relationship ending once the skill or goal is achieved.

Mentoring is about working together to find a solution and also offering ideas as a mentor brings expertise of the what and the how unlike a coach. This is often a long-term relationship that develops with the needs of the mentee over time.

A common saying that sums up the differences is that ‘a coach has some great questions for your answers; a mentor has some great answers for your questions’.

Think about the roles you have adopted with others. Did you offer solutions as a coach? Were you coaching when the person really needed a mentor?

Time for change

Identifying the need for a coach and/or mentor generally comes from change, either the necessity to change or the desire for change.

Necessity may be organisational such as a transformation programme, delivering stakeholder expectations, mergers and acquisitions activity, new responsibilities or moving into a new sector. Adaptive, transactional change of this nature can be relatively straightforward…