Mentoring or Coaching: Are They Different and Does It Really Matter?

aps-logo-cmyk-02-dark-small*This article was written by Rob Field, Learning and Development Director at Advanced People Strategies.

In organisations today, change is constant, rapid and relentless. Learning needs to follow this. Helping individuals and teams in this context is always challenging.

Coaching and mentoring have a key role to play, but they are very different even though the terms seem to be used interchangeably. Any sharing of knowledge, experience or advice, in my opinion, is always good as it can accelerate the process. Mentoring can, conversely, create a perpetuation of similar tried and tested approaches and a feeling of obligation to follow the advice of a more senior and more experienced mentor. Solid mentoring relationships can create opportunities that otherwise would not exist.

Great coaching is designed to free the thinking and allow much deeper re ection on motivations and an increase in self-awareness. Time and space to consider what energises and what drains in conjunction with values and beliefs. This encourages individuals to identify their personal goals, create a vision for their own future and how they move into that future space. The power comes from them driving the agenda and making choices that they want to commit to.

“‘I am able to control only that of which I am aware. That of which I am unaware controls me. Awareness empowers me.” — Sir John Whitmore

Clarity of understanding and awareness are the precursor to making impactful decisions. They assist with what to focus on and how, while supporting meaningful performance improvement. Developing awareness leads to developing skills and modifying behaviours. Increasingly organisations are under pressure to deliver for their customers and the time for development is often heavily scrutinised. Developing talent is critical to business success so e ective coaching can add real value. Performance, motivation and engagement go hand in hand.

For organisations, two ways to add value with coaching. Firstly, look to develop the skills of your managers and leaders to coach effectively so they appreciate the benefits this style can bring. It will impact the culture of the organisation. It will drive engagement, ultimately adding to the bottom line though improved performance and discretionary effort. Second, use some external coaches. The external element brings a neutrality that can offer further benefits and that can challenge in ways that internal coaches may find difficult.

The context within which organisations operate is changing fast due to external factors, requiring new leadership qualities.

Coaching and mentoring both have a place. They can both be positive. They are different and the difference matters!

Know the difference. Do both!