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What Makes Coaching and Mentoring Different?


When it comes to the development of your team playing the role of mentor and coach can be beneficial to their development.  These two terms are often used interchangeably yet they are different. So what makes them different?

Mentoring

Mentoring is much more hands on and interpersonal.  As a leader or supervisor you are working hands on with a team member to facilitate the learning process.  Mentoring is sharing experiences, skills, and knowledge. It often takes place with an individual who is learning something that they have no previous knowledge about and it is something that they will need to master or at least be proficient in. Or it maybe learning how to navigate through an organization or explore new career paths.

Coaching

On the other hand, coaching generally does not focus on hard skill such as accounting, project management, or programming to name a few.  Coaching is a process that helps one to explore what may be holding them back from their true potential and often is focused more on behaviors than skills.

Think of a baseball coach, someone who is with the team and letting them do the work, however he/she will review the team and try to better their abilities across the field.  However imagine the same coach working with his pitcher and trying to teach him how to properly throw a curve ball.  The first scenario is simply coaching the team to raise productivity, and the second is mentoring an individual who is trying to learn a new skill or ability that he/she might not be able to properly learn on his or her own.

Coaching has become a perk and benefit for many high potential employees; some view it as a punishment because of poor performance.  This view is often the result of how the coaching opportunity was presented to the employee.  I had a situation where I was coaching two executives who were in conflict. Because of the way the coaching opportunity was presented to them, it took close to six weeks of working with them to get them to understand that this was not punishment but an opportunity. Having a coach or being coached is all about ways you can better yourself.

Leadership Tip:  When introducing the concept of coaching to an employee, make it clear that you are investing in them so that they can perform at their full potential.

Though both mentoring and coaching are beneficial and can be used to teach and develop employees, it is important to know when to use which method.  These are two very different concepts, however many people will use them interchangeably.

Here is an example of how to use both:  I recently blogged about peer reviews and the benefits that they hold.  If you had a team that was self-sustaining, meaning that as a leader you did not have to intervene on a regular basis, they might use peer reviews to understand what behaviors and skills they needed to adjust.  One individual who had a specific skill could mentor another while they try to learn the ability.  At the same time they may receive coaching from you, the leader, regarding some behaviors that need change.

Remember coaching and mentoring are great methods for development. They both develop employees to a high level of performance. The key is to understand when to use each one and be clear to those you are working with what the goal is when working with them.

What are some coaching tips you could share that are effective while leading your team?

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