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Coaching or Mentoring?

Surprisingly, there is a lot of confusion in the business world between coaching and mentoring. I have spoken to quite a few business people, men and women alike, who told me that coaching is not really necessary when you have a good mentoring system in place, especially if the size of the business is small to medium. Well, they couldn’t have been more further from the truth. As a result I decided to write this article and explain the differences and why the two address distinctive issues altogether.

Coaching evolves around the coachee’s personal attributes and offers the support for him/her to find and apply the best solutions with the aim to reach best potential, hence personal and professional success. Coaching concentrates solely on the coachee.

Mentoring evolves around the mentor’s personal attributes and is based on the fact that a person who has more knowledge and experience guides someone who has less knowledge and experience. The key word here is “guides”. Which means the mentors tells the mentored what he/she believes should be doing in order to be successful in what they do.

Whilst the attempted end result for both coaching and mentoring is the same, the journey and the real outcomes are completely different.

Coaching and mentoring differ from their very core: the process. Coaching is based on asking questions in such a way to provide the coachee the safe environment to travel inwards and deal with the most hidden worries and issues which prevent him/her to perform at highest potential. The coachee verbalizes his/hers worries, argues the importance of those issues in the bigger picture, faces feelings otherwise concealed and locked. The process is transformational and the results are solid and long lasting. In coaching the relationship is open and confidential. Coaching is meant to build self-confidence and change the way the coachee is thinking so that in the future he/she will know what would be the best choices and correct decisions for a successful outcome.

Mentoring is based on a senior telling the mentored what he/she things should be doing in an uncertain situation or when at a crossroads. Based on the mentor’s previous experience, the mentored is encouraged to apply solutions that are not necessarily compatible with his/her mentality or personality. Furthermore, due to the level of seniority, the mentored rarely has the openness to challenge the mentor in explaining in further detail why a certain advice is the appropriate one for his/her case. It might sound harsh, but I believe that mentoring creates dependency, as the process does not necessarily help the mentored to develop self-confidence and the ability to make personal decisions without being haunted by the question: “what would my mentor do?”

Another very important difference between the two that I would like to point out is ownership of responsibility of the outcomes. Through coaching the coachee is supported to find his/hers own solutions and identify the implementation procedures according to the goals and the available resources. As a result, if something goes wrong, the coachee is aware that he/she is responsible for the outcome since the choice was theirs. Mentoring is lacking this very important characteristic in shaping the future businessperson’s qualities. By offering solutions, even if they are multiple and the final decision belongs to the mentored, the fact that he/she was fed the solution and did not come up with themselves, if the result is not the desired one, then the blame is placed with the mentor who offered the wrong advice. It is human nature to react like that and I honestly believe there is no point in arguing it.

Another aspect worth mentioning is the time factor. The coach’s full attention is geared towards the coachee since it is his/hers job to do so and paid for it, whilst mentors are busy and concerned with dealing with their own professional issues and duties, which sometimes might work to the mentored’s detriment. It is not mal intent, please don’t get me wrong, it is just the way it is. The lack of available time can easily lead to offering solutions instead of offering the support for the mentored to find his/hers own answers.

I could go on and on with this comparison, but I believe that I have proved my point. As a conclusion I would only like to summarise what coaching and mentoring do. Coaching reshapes a person’s thinking from its roots; hence the transformation is solid and long lasting, placing the coachee in the driving seat. At the same time mentoring is transmitting the knowledge and experience from the mentor to the mentored without placing too much emphasis on the mentored’s ability to personalize the advise and make it his/her own, reshaping the mentored way of thinking not being a priority, hence placing the mentored into the back seat.

I don’t want to be misunderstood. Mentoring has benefits as well, the most important one being the access of the mentored to the mentor’s network, if that happens, of course …

Tip of the Week
The value of what you receive is always reflected in the value of what you pay!
Mihaela Berciu


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