Mentor vs Coach - Is There a Difference?

The modern world requires human species to change, and this requirement needs to be the major transformation in human consciousness, and the way humans think, behave and relate to each other “more than the human world” ( Dr Abram). This is true in the organizational setup when coaches and mentors are required not only to expand their individual and collective capacity for responding to the current requisite needs of the company, but also to increase the human capacity for fulfilling the increased demands of tomorrow.

However, there is a critical relationship between the coaches or mentors and the team members, and often the conversation between the two ends up getting worse, which could be due to the differences in their expectations and lack of the control on one’s emotions. A leader has to display his capability as the coach, but at the same time he ought to be mentoring and it is vice-a-versa. After all, the main purpose of coaching and mentoring is to increase the knowledge and skills as per the organizational setup but it all depends upon the way it is delivered, making it critically imperative to understand the difference between the two terms.

Mentor vs Coach

Mentor vs Coach

Coaching means imparting necessary skills, training, guidance or any other instructions to subordinates or juniors which could help them perform at their best and accomplish the task. The Coach has to assist the person to learn the requisite skills, attitude and behaviour for performing the work successfully and within the set parameters. All the tasks are precisely described with essential details, clear focus and in specific timelines while mentoring goes much beyond the conventional work structure to focus on the individual’s emotional and behavioral aspects. During the mentoring process, the interaction could be more philosophical, psychological and emotional with the individual as the whole criteria are taken into the perspective. Current need of the organization is the deciding factor to check whether to coach a particular person while during mentoring, employees’ needs are looked after.

We cannot also equate coaching with training, as it can be only one small part of the complete coaching spectrum while mentoring can, by explanation, be more abstract and takes place through the anecdotes of the mentor.

How Coaching and Mentoring are different let’s see:

  • Coaching is concerned with practical applications while mentoring is relationship-oriented

The main attention is towards the issues like how to effectively manage, how to speak more articulately and learn to think strategically. It needs the coach to teach the learner how to adopt the skills while mentoring is about providing a cordial environment for the workers where they can show their skills. A mentor is also concerned with his personal and professional success. Though general goals and competencies might be used as a base to create relationships, the main agenda is to move beyond the confined areas and incorporate aspects such as work/life balance, self-perception, self- confidence and influence of personal life on professional achievements. During mentoring, an employee feels more closely associated with his mentor as the latter goes into the emotional depth of the learner to understand his behavioral pattern, and his personal and professional issues. In such situations, the mentor solves the problem with lot of enthusiasm and warmth. Thus he makes the employee get attuned to the corporate culture through emotional and behavioral guidance.

  • Coaching is driven by performance and mentoring is driven by development

The main aim of coaching is to drive the individual to perform at his best by building new skills or improving the current ones. Once the learner has acquired the skills, a coach is not required. While a mentor carries his employee throughout the development stage; right from the current phase to the future. Mentors also provide career advice regarding what steps a new entrant should take to boost his morale and move ahead in his life. A Mentor is a role model, a guide and a supervisor showing light to the employees and guiding them all through their careers.

  • Coaching does not need plan or design while Mentoring requires proper planning and designing

Coaching can be provided on any topic instantly. If a company wants to provide coaching to maximum number of individuals, then a proper planning or design should be considered to find the requisite competency, expertise and tools for assessment, but it does not need a long lead ti me for implementing the coaching program. However Mentoring requires a proper focus and strategically oriented design to properly guide the employees. Specific mentoring models are generated and the components formed guide the relationship, particularly the process of matching. Mentors find out their own skills and tools to mentor by which they can be more directive in their approach. Mentors are capable of giving a particular advice wherever possible, but a coach would never offer his own advice, instead he assists individuals to find their own solutions.

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  • Tools of Mentors and a Contract for the Coach

A most important tool in the hand of a Mentor is a Mentoring agreement which is created, completed and signed by both the participants.  The agreement is a formal document which acts a commitment during mentoring relationship. The clauses in the agreement include accomplishment of goals, learning the content, different communication methods and a meeting schedule. The coaching occurs as a response to the current needs and situation. Different kinds of assessment instruments such as teaching evaluation tool and skills training activities are used in coaching. There could be a contract regarding the problem to be solved and skills to be learned.

  • A Manager as a Strategic Partner in Coaching but has no role in Mentoring

The immediate manager will closely participate in the coaching process. He would often give feedback on areas where the employee requires coaching. The coach makes use of this information to find a precise approach and the areas where he should focus. Both the manager and the coach are equal partners in the process while during mentoring, the immediate manager is not directly involved. He may provide suggestions to the employees on how to best utilize the mentoring experience or offer recommendations to the matching committee, but the manager is not associated with the mentor and has no direct communication during the mentoring process.

  • Evaluation of coaching is easy but difficult for Mentoring

Evaluation of coaching can be easily undertaken as the best return on the investment. When the learner has gained enough skills, the manager or stakeholder/s can check the results such as the productivity, gaining aptitude and skills in resolving the complex tasks quickly or answering the customers’ calls etc. It is difficult to evaluate mentoring as it is based on the emotional principles and establishing personal relationships. It is also not easy to obtain the objective data since the role of the manager is limited and mentoring process needs to concentrate more towards softer skills.

  • Coaching system requires performance management system such as performance review or 360 while Mentoring does not require performance reviews

The effective coaching depends on the performance management systems such as 360 degree and performance reviews. The information and regular reviews help the coach to focus on the areas where the learner needs training. Generally ROI during coaching are tied back to the systems to form a loop, while mentoring does not need any performance management system.

  • The coach gets feedback from managers while feedback is not required in Mentoring

The coach gives feedback to the manager since coaching depends on performance management system and falls within the loop or a system. This is a very crucial and a necessary part but mentoring does not involve conveying any feedback to the manager. This is because employees are slightly hesitant to talk about the personal issues with the manager, which they can freely discuss with their mentors. The Mentor creates an environment in which an employee feels safe to interact and share his issues with him. There is a relationship and a trust between the mentor and his mentee, but if a manager is involved then there could be a possibility of the trust getting broken.

  • A coach is paid for his services while mentors are not compensated

For a coaching program, a professional coach is hired who is paid for his services. He gives his best in making his coaching program a success but a mentor does not receive compensation for the mentoring program. Their service is out of sympathy or with a spirit of giving something in return to the company. It could be also out of a sense of duty or love for a particular hardworking or zealot employee who has induced a person at senior level for mentoring.

  • A coach acts at his own discrete and independently while the mentor acts as a part of the organizational setup.

A coach functions independently, as he provides coaching and instant feedback to the learner and an immediate manager. If the coach needs help or assistance, he would seek outside resources. There is never a third party to watch over the activities of the coach, the learner and the manager. A mentor works in the precinct of a system, and he can use the Internal Mentoring Program Manager (MPM) as a guide for help. The MPM deals with all the issues and provides support to retain ongoing contact ensuring that the mentoring relationship is operating perfectly well.

  • No particular training is required for a coach but Mentoring needs to understand the context in which business should proceed.

A coach does not require training on how he should perform the task and accomplish his goals in an organization. He needs to be informed only about the purpose and the type of the program he has to operate in.  While in mentoring, a mentor needs training so that he can get the gist of the business dynamics. Though there are many myths and misconceptions that are linked with mentoring, the training on the part of both the mentor and his trainer can remove all such misconceptions and establish strong relationships based on trust and cooperation.

  • Coach’s main goal is dealing with business issue while A Mentor deals with both the business and personal issues

A coach’s main aim is dealing with a business issue; he is not concerned with any of the personal matter of a learner. A coach’s performance will be judged as per the level of the skills gained by the learner, but a mentor has to take both the personal as well as the professional life of the mentee into consideration. A mentor is judged by how well he has displayed his personal effectiveness and how well he has motivated the learner professionally as well as emotionally. A mentor seeks inner as well as external change in the learner.

In short, Mentor vs Coach

Both the Mentoring and coaching activities intent to achieve the same purpose; to impart the employee with requisite skills and to motivate him to give his best performance. Despite having differences in their way of functioning, both the mentor and the coach are beneficial for the company as they strive for the development and growth of the company through the growth of its employees.

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