What is a mentor? What is a coach?
Are they the same? Do their roles intersect? As both coaching and mentorship roles and programs become more and more of a necessity in business landscapes across all sectors, it may be useful to establish the key distinctions between the two roles.
Because yes, they are vastly different, even though you may also notice some similarities between the two.
The Key Differences Between a Mentor and a Coach
Coaching is a bit more formal than mentoring (in most cases). Usually, a coach will work as a consultant with clear definitions as to their role, activity within the company, and even the methodology used to assist organizations or employees to meet their goals.
Mentorship is often an informal agreement between two parties, such as a team leader providing a new employee with a bit more support to help them navigate their tasks.
Mentors don’t need official training to become mentors. It can simply be someone with enough hands-on experience in a certain role helping a coworker or employee improve their skills. The approach itself can be less structured and function on a need-basis, based on the challenges the mentees face.
Coaches, on the other hand, are specifically trained to assist individuals and companies in reaching their goals.
- Who Benefits
With mentorship, the major beneficiary is, of course, the mentee. They receive counseling from their mentor in order to better handle tasks and challenges, which can indirectly benefit the company as well. Moreover, in a mentorship program, the mentor can benefit from the process too.
With coaching, the line between the company and the employee is more blurred. Coaches take into account both parties’ needs and expectations of the coaching process.
- Business Knowledge
Since mentors are usually from the business, they are obviously the party with more knowledge about the organization and industry in which they activate. While coaches can develop their expertise in a niche industry as well, it’s very common for them to take on clients from multiple sectors and adapt their approach on a case-by-case basis.
- Contractual Obligations
Because mentors are usually part of the organization, they usually volunteer to take one member under their wing and provide counseling. Coaches on the other hand are hired by the company to provide these services and have clearer contractual obligations.
Coaching or Mentorship: Which One Yields Better Results?
Coaches and mentors provide very different types of help and support for individuals and companies. Choosing one over the other isn’t always wise, because when working together, they can both provide essential help for employees and the organization.
At the end of the day, it’s about the expected outcomes from each. With coaching, you expect the client to improve their skills and be better equipped to step into new positions. With mentoring, you expect the mentee to gain more confidence and learn the lay of the land from an insider.
And both are essential to the professional growth of an individual.