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Coaching and Mentoring; What’s the Difference Anyway?

“You cannot teach a man anything. You can only help him discover it within himself.” ~Galileo Galilei

Over the weekend I was talking with a friend about coaching. The discussion started out with a description of how working with a good coach can help you gain clarity of purpose, and give you the springboard you need to move forward.

At one point in the conversation, however, my friend stopped and asked this question: What’s the difference between coaching and mentoring anyway? Is there one? Great question!

There absolutely is a difference, and I think where a lot of the confusion comes from is that a coach might move into a mentor-ish role for short bit during the coaching experience to share some information relevant to the conversation. Likewise, a good mentor applies coaching processes in their work with their mentee. If you are considering reaching out for some assistance in an area you’d like to develop, it is a good idea to understand the difference so you know which type of relationship you need.

The Mentor

A mentor might be someone you think about engaging when you are moving into a new role, or learning a new skill, and you would like to benefit from the expertise of another person who has “been there, done that” and done it well.

For example, you might engage a mentor if you are moving into managing others for the first time. A mentor can give you direct feedback about what you’re doing well, and what needs work. They may offer advice about a specific action or approach you could try. They may even point you toward resources, or connect you with other people in their network who could provide additional insight or assistance. The relationship with a mentor may be a long-term relationship and a mutual growth opportunity for both the mentor and the mentee.

The Coach

A coach might be the right choice if you are unclear about either your direction in life, or how to achieve the life you desire. They may not be an expert in your chosen field, but they are an expert in the coaching process. Unlike a mentor who might inform you of how you can achieve the level of success they achieved if you follow the same path, a coach will help you uncover what you truly wish for and your unique path to realizing that desire.

For example, you might engage a coach if you are suddenly finding yourself feeling untethered even though things around you appear to have stayed status quo. Your coach will take you through a process that helps you to define the symptoms of “untethered”, begin to uncover the causes that created the state of feeling “untethered”, help you vision what not feeling “untethered” would look/feel/sound like, work with you to think through what you’ll need to begin to shift from feeling “untethered”, and what no longer being “untethered” would allow you to experience. They will work with you on a plan of action and be your accountability partner as you g through the process.

A good coach will not, however, tell you that the last time they were feeling untethered, what worked for them was __________ (fill in the blank). That’s the job of your mentor!

A really simple comparison of the two would be to consider the difference between “asking” vs “advising”. If you are looking for discovery, then you want to work with a coach who will ask you powerful questions that that lead to self-discovery and empowerment. If you are looking for guidance, then you might consider working with a mentor whose success and experience you admire and would like to emulate.

Hope this helps with some questions if you’ve been asking yourself the same thing.

Trish Cody is a speaker and coach whose work is focused on raising awareness of how our default tendencies and beliefs predict our capacity for success, and how those defaults can be adjusted to create more positive results. As a Certified Professional Coach and Energy Leadership Master Practitioner, Trish works with clients to uncover their core values and beliefs, and learn a process of leading energy to attract positivity and success naturally.

All rights reserved; Trish Cody Coaching LLC; 2015

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