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Do you know if you need a Coach or a Mentor? Some
of the most frequent questions I am asked by People
Managers relate to the differences between coach-
ing and mentoring. “Do I need a coach or mentor?”
and “What is the difference between coaching and
mentoring”? Where the mystery and confusion
comes from is the interpretation in the definition of
each. For example, what is generally regarded as
coaching in the private sector and predominantly in
the UK, is often referred to in the education sector
and in North America as mentoring.
So rather than getting hung up on the definitions
dependant of where you are in the world and which
part of an econo-
my
you
are
working in, I
think there is a
better way of
looking at it. In
their
widest
sense,
both
coaching
and
mentoring are a
series of conver-
sations to help
someone achieve
their goals and
maximise
their
potential. These
conversations
could use a varie-
ty of approaches from a person being managed,
taught, coached, mentored, counselled, or even us-
ing the therapeutic professions. So I like to consider
both coaching and mentoring as a continuum of ap-
proaches sat somewhere in the middle, rather than
as distinct and separate from each other.
To further help with our understanding, I much pre-
fer to move towards thinking about coaching and
mentoring as Directive versus Non-Directive in
what’s actually happening in the relationship. The
more Directive approach to coaching and mentoring
is about offering feedback, giving guidance and even
instructing an individual of the best way forward.
The more Non-Directive approach is where a coach
and mentor may be mainly listening to gain under-
standing or asking questions to raise awareness.
Case Study 1:
I was
recently coaching the
Chief Executive of a
Multinational
Fast
Food Chain who had
moved from the other
side of the world to
take up his new posi-
tion in the UK. The
cultural
differences
between his culture of
origin to the UK cul-
ture, and the change
of leading a fast mov-
ing Pan-Asia business
to a North European
business,
meant
I
needed to take quite a
specific approach. So to begin with I needed to be
more Directive and offer ideas, advice, make sugges-
tions and up-skill this CEO; particularly in terms of
the cross cultural nuances and the more traditional
British approach to business. But as we moved
through the first 90 days of his new position, the
coaching relationship developed and the CEO need-
ed me to listen and ask more intuitive questions to
help him develop his leadership style and be able to
reflect well on the day to day activities of his busi-
ness.
Case Study 2:
A few years ago I worked with a Chief
Executor of a UK based charity. This CEO had ‘come
through the ranks’ and had gradually developed
leadership and management skills throughout his
career. At our first session he confessed to me that
for the first time in his career he felt alone – almost
Coaching Vs Mentoring
In their widest sense, both coaching
and mentoring are a series of
conversations to help someone
achieve their goals and maximise
their potential.”
The more Directive approach to
coaching and mentoring is about
offering feedback, giving guidance and
even instructing an individual of the
best way forward”