Many people feel that coaching and mentoring are the same thing. Whenever you ask a group what makes a good coach, someone inevitably says “mentor” or “mentoring.” Likewise, if you were to ask a group what makes a good mentor, you would probably hear someone say that a mentor helps to coach people.
No doubt, coaching and mentoring have many similar characteristics. Both coaches and mentors are typically established to assist other people in personal development in life, business, school, career decisions, athletics, and many other areas. At CMOE, we have found that good mentors and good coaches will demonstrate many of the same types of skills and behaviors when working with other people. One thing we find to be more common than ever before is that employees are looking to their immediate managers to take the role of coach and mentor. Not only are the employees seeking this help, but many managerial job descriptions are requiring leaders to coach and mentor as well.
If you really want to understand the difference between coaching and mentoring, author Nigel MacLennan in his book Coaching and Mentoring helps distinguish the difference between a coach and a mentor quite well.
“The two roles are worlds apart and overlapping, depending on which dimension they are compared. In terms of volition, a mentor can be unwitting or even unwilling, but still a successful mentor. How? By a performer choosing a role model at a distance. A coach could never be unwitting, and is unlikely to engage in the process if unwilling. The roles overlap when a person performs successfully as a coach. He or she is likely to be adopted as a mentor of coaching skills. The reverse is not true. A mentor can never be a coach unless they deliberately adopt the skills involved in successful coaching. The coach concentrates on helping the performer learn how to achieve more. The mentor’s aim is to be available for the performer to use as a resource. A mentor can fulfill the role quite adequately with basic management, people and training or teaching skills. An effective coach must have the knowledge, technique and skill to help the performer achieve, without directing.”
MacLennan makes a strong point in that people with good coaching skills help people to learn and develop on their own, while mentors many times just direct. Another important thought the author expresses is that a coach can become a mentor more easily than a mentor can become a coach.
A mentor can be disengaged and distant, but today’s coaches are in the front lines with their troops every day. The art of coaching demands ownership and partnership, in order to build a strong foundation for communication and support within the relationship. The Journal of Applied Psychology said that, “Managers spend 57 to 89 percent of their time in face to face communication.” Even in today’s constantly changing world of technology, managers are still spending a large portion of time in communication with their team members.
Therefore, it is increasingly important for managers, directors, supervisors, and senior executives to be good coaches. They need proper coaching skills training in order to make a bigger impact within their teams and organization. When a good coach engages his team members in continuous and positive interactions, the developed synergy will produce tremendous results. Strong coaches, properly trained in coaching skills, know how to maximize interactions for positive relationships and bottom-line outcomes.