Yorkshire Times
A Voice of the Free Press
Ian Garner
Business Writer
2:00 AM 2nd April 2022

“What Is The Difference Between A Coach And A Mentor?”

Image: Geralt on Pixabay
Image: Geralt on Pixabay
Famous American, Benjamin Franklin said: “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”

We often hear the terms ‘coaching’ and ‘mentoring’ used interchangeably. Wherever these terms are used, the success of these approaches depends on many factors, not least the business culture, the skills of the individual mentor or coach, and the emphasis that is placed on learning and development in the organisational context.

While the skills required are similar, and both are used as professional development tools, the structure and the outcome are quite different.

Image: Pixabay
Image: Pixabay
The CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) describes them as follows:

Coaching is something that aims to produce optimal performance and improvement at work. It focuses on specific skills and goals, although it may also have an impact on an individual’s personal attributes such as social interaction or confidence. The process typically lasts for a defined period of time or forms the basis of an on-going management style.

Mentoring in the workplace tends to describe a relationship in which a more experienced colleague shares their greater knowledge to support the development of an inexperienced member of staff. It calls on the skills of questioning, listening, clarifying and reframing that are also associated with coaching. One key distinction is that mentoring relationships tend to be longer term than coaching arrangements.

Image: Pixabay
Image: Pixabay
The CMI (Chartered Management Institute) descriptions of the mentor and the coach are as follows

The mentor is a more experienced guide and adviser with relevant professional and sector knowledge, passing it on to a less experienced mentee. This is common practice in professional organisations, sometimes under the banner of ‘supervision.’ It is particularly helpful to a new leader, less experienced professional or someone promoted to a more senior position where so much can be new and unfamiliar. The leader is typically unprepared for the protocols, techniques and some aspects of relevant knowledge and skills. A mentor is generally there to provide wisdom, build confidence and give a guiding hand, so that mentor needs to possess not only the appropriate and relevant experience, but also the communication skills, patience and approach to help their mentee to develop their understanding, skills and, often, their career. Mentoring is therefore commonly used in succession planning, to prepare an individual for the ‘next step’ and support them afterwards.

The coach has a set of skills and capabilities that may not occur naturally in an individual. A good coach is generally one who has been trained in specific skills and techniques of questioning, listening and prompting reflection. Essentially, coaching is non-directive – unlike the mentor, it is not the coach’s place to advise or instruct, but to ask questions and encourage the individual/s they are coaching to find their own answers.

Some interesting quotes on mentoring and coaching include the following:

“Mentors have a way of seeing more of our faults that we would like. It's the only way we grow.” George Lucas

"The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image but giving them the opportunity to create themselves." Steven Spielberg

“A good coach sees in you that you can’t see in yourself.” Pep Guardiola

“Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their growth.” John Whitmore

Coaching and mentoring members of your team makes them more valuable to your organisation by developing and improving their skills, both professionally and personally.

Showing interest in the growth, development and progress of your employees, shows them that you care about their progress. This will increase loyalty and retention.

Ian Garner
Ian Garner
Ian Garner is a retired Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute (FCMI) and a Fellow of the Institute of Directors (FIoD). He is Vice Chair of the Institute of Directors, North Yorkshire Branch. He is founder and director at Practical Solutions Management, a strategic consultancy practice and skilled in developing strategy and providing strategic direction, specialising in business growth and leadership. Ian is a Board Member of Maggie’s Leeds. Maggie’s provides emotional and practical cancer support and information in centres across the UK and online, with their centre in Leeds based at St James’s Hospital.

The Institute of Directors (IoD) is the UK's largest membership organisation for business leaders, providing informative events, professional development courses for self-improvement, networking and expert advice. The IoD North Yorkshire Branch has members across Harrogate, York and the surrounding towns and is reaching out to business leaders, of large and small enterprises, to help their businesses succeed.