Mentor vs. Coach – What’s the Difference and Which do I Need?
Whether you are stuck in a rut or crushing your goals – having a mentor or coach who helps you with your personal development can be a game-changer. The first step of course is finding someone you are comfortable talking to – but how do you know if you need a mentor or a coach – and what the heck is the difference?
A mentor or coach can support your drive for greater self-esteem, problem-solving skills, and enhanced confidence in managing challenges, especially in uncomfortable situations. But they really aren’t the same.
Mentoring is defined as “A process of direct transfer of experience and knowledge from one person to another”. We often think of a mentor as a seasoned professional who provides guidance and direction to a mentee—usually a junior–level person with similar interests who may aspire to the position of the mentor. The mentor has already achieved success within the industry and is voluntarily sharing their expertise with a colleague. This doesn’t just apply to the corporate world, if you are starting your own business, you may find a mentor who took a similar path to what you want to take or who is already in the industry you plan to work in. Mentors typically aren’t paid; they volunteer their time to help mentor others.
Coaching is defined as “A method of achieving set goals. A coach helps their clients achieve specific, immediate goals as defined by the organization or the client”. If you are an employee, your company may hire a coach to help you, but as an entrepreneur, you may hire a coach to help you with a specific goal or skill. You may hire a coach to help you launch a business, write a book, improve on your social media or writing skills, etc. Coaches are paid for their work because it’s their job – their main business is coaching others.
Relationship: Mentoring is oriented around relationships – yes, you might focus on learning things and improving competencies, but over time it becomes more about the bond and rapport you develop vs. business issues.
Coaching is more task-oriented. A coach is there to help you become more proficient in certain areas or skills you are lacking – for example if you suck at doing presentations, you might hire a public speaking coach.
Drivers: Mentors are development-driven, focusing on the future by sharing their past experiences and what they learned to help the mentee.
Coaches are performance-driven, focusing on the present, and improving or acquiring new skills that can be used immediately.
Duration: Mentoring doesn’t usually have an end date; it’s understood that there is a significant time commitment from both parties as you move from acquaintances to building a strong fellowship – mentoring can last years or even decades.
Coaching typically has a defined end date. You set a specific schedule to meet and it ends when the trainee masters the skills or goal that’s been defined. Of course, you can keep adding new goals to work on, but there is a defined start and end for each commitment.
- Mentoring is a long-term process based on mutual trust and respect. Coaching, on the other hand, is for a short period of time.
- Mentoring is more focused on creating an informal association between the mentor and mentee, whereas coaching follows a more structured and formal approach.
- A business mentor has the first-hand experience of the mentee’s line of work. A business coach, however, does not need to have a hands-on experience of the kind of work the coachee is engaged in.
- The topmost priority of a business mentor is to help develop skills that are not just relevant for the mentees in their present job, but also for the future. For a business coach, the biggest priority is to improve performance that impacts the present job.
Need help finding a mentor? Did you know that there are actually 8 levels of mentorship – check out this cool article on how to find a mentor? Finding the right business coach requires some legwork as well, here are 16 tips to help you find the right fit.
Now that you understand the difference, go forth, and find your new coach or mentor. Thinking of starting your own business or need some coaching in marketing, sales, or operations – we may be able to help!