At first glance, coaching and mentoring may seem to be the same thing and are often transposed in our thinking as they are both techniques requiring similar skills to drive behavioural change, yet the process and the outcomes are quite different.
What is the difference between a coach and a mentor?
The International Coach Federation defines coaching as “Partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximise their personal and professional potential.”
The International Mentoring Group defines mentoring as, “A process of direct transfer of experience and knowledge from one person to another.”
It might help to think of a mentor as an experienced and trusted advisor, with whom you have an enduring relationship based on confidentiality and respect, that enables you to tap into their experience and expertise when required. Think Obi Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker, Dumbledore and Harry Potter, Mr. Miyagi and Daniel LaRusso or for those who appreciate the beautiful game Joe Mercer and Malcolm Allison, Pep Guardiola and Mikel Arteta.
There’s no need to read any further if you feel there’s no value in having
“a brain to pick, an ear to listen and a push in the right direction”J.C. Crosby
However, if you would like some insight on when to use a mentor, the mindset of a mentee and how to get the most from a mentor continue reading.
I was informally mentored by Larry, an American colleague 15 years my senior and experienced in many things I had yet to experience. Through frequent meetings in various countries, at various events, we developed a mutual respect and trust. Which enabled me to reach out to him when faced with a significant downturn in UK demand which was threatening our factory and our employee livelihoods.
18 months on and I had stopped writing orders for 10s of thousands of units and had started writing orders for millions of units. I was no longer just selling to my regular UK customers, I was selling to new Chinese customers who in turn were selling to UK customers whose doors I‘d been unable to open and to an entirely new market in the US.
When to use a mentor?
Most people don’t ask for a mentor as they tend to be too involved in the day to day of the business, or have a blind spot to the opportunities a mentor offers in terms of personal and professional development, or they may just be too embarrassed to ask for support and guidance.
The majority of people I have mentored have been introduced to me via a more senior person within their organisation, someone responsible for the future of the business, someone thinking about that individual’s contribution, development and future role in the business.
Increasingly, I am being asked for advice and perspective on running and managing a board of directors or finding myself in conversation with business owners that know they need help but just “don’t know where to start”.
“Over the years, we’ve learnt that guidance and mentoring can help a business go from good to the fastest growing company in the UK.”Gymshark X Innovation Birmingham Programme
What is required of the mentee?
I have learnt that the mindset of the mentee is critical – the trigger is recognising the need for support and that we cannot do everything on our own. The value comes from being receptive to advice and maintaining an open mind, no matter how improbable things may sound at times.
While many companies offer an internal mentor to support individuals, it is common for mentees to work with mentors from outside their company or even industry sector, as it offers access to broader experience, new perspectives, and transferable insights – it also increases the reassurance of what’s shared in the session stays in the session.
How to get the most from your mentor?
With a mentor you set the agenda and together you create the session in a way that works for you and helps you to build a better business. A good mentor not only brings business experience but life experience and a valuable perspective on wellbeing – 3 key ingredients for good leadership.
At the start decide what assistance you need, what you want as your outcome and what are the ground rules. Process agreed, you will then need to engage with your mentor which may make demands on your EQ (emotional intelligence) as you establish a trust and respect for your mentor and open your heart as well as your mind to them, but that goes for any good relationship.
At first glance mentoring and coaching, may seem the same thing but the key difference is a coach has some great questions for your answers and a mentor has some great answers for your questions… all you have to do is ask them!