Coaching and mentoring have one goal in common: to help people achieve their goals, whether in the personal or professional sphere. However, there are differences between the two methods: here are what they are and how to assess which one is best for you.
I don't know about you, but I love to find inspiration in other people.
Whether they are friends, colleagues, even competitors or simply professionals in their field whom I am fortunate enough to meet and get to know...
I see it as a unique opportunity to learn something new from anyone who knows more about a particular topic than I do.
I did it with Antonio Panico and with Luca Mazzucchelli: I take what I need from them, apply it, and see the results I get in my business. Not to mention that wonderful friendships have been born out of this!
The fact of the matter is that I believe it is essential to never feel like you have arrived in your work - which also means relying on coaches who can guide you through a piece of your growth (personal and work), as well as having mentors to show you the best way forward.
Do you agree?
As you see, I used two different terms to talk about those people who in some way help you grow and improve: coach and mentor.
You know that while used somewhat indiscriminately, coaching and mentoring actually mean quite different things to each other?
Yes, sometimes coaches can be mentors and mentors can be coaches. In fact, coaching and mentors have the same goal: to help you grow, develop and realize your full potential.
Regardless of your level, coaching and mentoring can be valuable resources that give you the opportunity to take responsibility for your personal and professional success.
However, there are some basic differences between a coach and a mentor, and consequently between coaching and mentoring programs: knowing and understanding them can benefit you should you decide to rely on one of these services-but also should you yourself wish to undertake training to offer yourself to support those who come to you asking for your help.
That's why in this article I will explain what they consist of, how they are so different, and how you can decide which one is best for you.
Coaching and mentoring: a definition
First of all, if you have not already done so, I recommend that you read my article on coaching, where I explain in more detail what it is and what types exist (by the way, if you work in the field yourself, you will find two other super interesting articles in my blog, on the marketing for coaches and on the Strategic actions you can implement to establish yourself).
In any case, let us briefly describe both types of service, so as to set a good starting point for everything else.
Various definitions can be found online.
The International Coach Federation defines coaching as An interactive, challenging and creative collaboration process, which helps people and companies maximize their potential, develop faster and produce more satisfactory results.
How? By improving the ability to set goals, take action, make informed decisions, and take full advantage of one's strengths.
A coach will then focus on your specific skills, teaching you how to master them, and on the issues you encounter, showing you how to overcome them.
Usually, that between coach and coachee is a short-term relationship, lasting as long as necessary to achieve the goals set. It also tends to be more formal and structured: sessions are usually scheduled at specific places and times.
L'Association for Talent Development Instead, it defines mentoring as a more informal relationship between an experienced and trusted person and another at the beginning of a career path, within the same company or the same target industry.
A mentor is a kind of guide: he usually occupies a role to which you aspire and has achieved the success you desire for yourself. His or her experience is invaluable to you, as is his or her advice and feedback, which helps you improve confidence and self-esteem.
This type of working relationship is almost always long-term and involves sharing with each other and building the trust necessary for personal growth.
However, beyond the various definitions, one thing is certain: coaching and mentoring definitely share some basic aspects. Here are the main ones:
- They are based on supportive one-to-one relationships;
- They help you achieve one or more goals;
- They show you the way to go from point A to point B;
- They support your growth and development, both personal and professional;
- They help you increase your self-awareness and open up new perspectives for growth;
- They can produce real and lasting change in your life.
Coaching and mentoring: 5 differences
All clear so far?
Well, let's then see what are the main differences between coaching and mentoring.
#1 Focus and duration
In general, it is true that both coaching and mentoring can be short-term or long-term, depending on your needs and how long it takes you to get what you want.
However, between the two, coaching usually involves achieving specific goals in a shorter, more defined time frame; this results in structured meetings with activities designed to guide you in a particular direction.
Mentoring, on the other hand, tends to last longer, partly because of its personal and informal nature-not only that, it has the potential to last a lifetime if it results in friendship, as it often does. The focus is on development and long-term goals from a broader and more general perspective.
#2 Reporting formalities
Very often the coaching relationship is seen as a more formal engagement, in which you seek someone specially trained and with the necessary skills to support you in your growth journey.
When you reach out to a mentor, on the other hand, a more personal, almost intimate relationship is usually established in which you are both willing to lay all the cards on the table, even those that seem to go beyond a simple professional partnership.
The coach is usually the one who "holds the reins" of the relationship: this is because coaching is related to a well-defined performance in which there is a specific skill or purpose in which the coach is an expert and on which he or she can provide advice.
In mentoring, on the other hand, the relationship is more two-way, of mutual sharing and exchange, so it is often the learner who is in the driver's seat or otherwise defining his or her own path based on what he or she wants to work on.
#4 Customization vs. repetitiveness
As I mentioned earlier, coaching tends to be more structured: basically, the coach has an action plan that he refers to in order to help the people who come to him. Clearly, each situation is its own, but there tend to be fixed steps that he proposes to his coachees and against which he evaluates the progress of the process.
Mentoring, on the contrary, is less repeatable and more personalized: since it is a relationship in which you as a learner also actively participate, many more factors take over that distinguish each case from the others in a more definite way.
You turn to a coach when you want to improve one or more specific skills; in fact, there are different areas (Mental Coach, Business Coach, Life Coach) depending on the goal you intend to achieve. In the end, the goal is to achieve an improvement in skills and abilities that is concretely measurable.
In mentoring you want to draw on the knowledge, experience and expertise of someone more experienced than you, who becomes a role model and example for you to be inspired by. This certainly allows you to acquire new skills or improve existing ones, but more importantly it leads to an all-around change or advancement in your life or career. Let's say that the perspective of growth is generally broader and almost "holistic."
Coaching and mentoring: which one is right for you?
Now that you understand the main differences between coaching and mentoring, you may wonder which of the two can be considered better.
Well, neither or both...
Yes, the truth is that there is no absolute answer!
It depends very much on what you intend to achieve; to make it easier for you, here are some pointers on that.
Coaching is for you if you are looking to develop a specific skill or acquire new skills in a short period of time; mentoring, on the other hand, is more suitable if you need guidance to show you step by step the way forward, but at the same time stimulate you and provide you with the right motivation To focus on developing your career.
However, if you are unclear about what would work best for you, try these considerations:
- What is your starting point? One of the biggest factors in your decision should be the current stage of your journey. If you are at the beginning of your startup, a mentor can address your concerns, offering broad-based advice to help you grow. As time passes, however, you may need to focus on certain strategies specifically-this is where an industry coach can direct you.
- What are your needs? Ask yourself whether you have difficulties in a specific area or task, or whether you want to improve your approach to business in general.
- What rules can fit you? Determine how often you will meet, how long the collaboration will last, the pattern of roles, and your preferred methods of communication and feedback.
As you may have guessed, coaching and mentoring are Highly effective learning techniques And they bring with them a number of advantages.
In general, both can greatly improve your individual performance, starting with the desire to grow and develop yourself, along with the good will to expose yourself to new perspectives and open up to new ways of thinking.
Once you understand the similarities and differences between coaching and mentoring, you can also understand how they are able to complement each other as growth methods.
Finally, always remember that every thick relationship is built On the basis of trust and respect: you must trust your coach or mentor to provide you with advice, feedback and support, based on his or her life experiences.
And don't be afraid of open heart and mind: learning from someone who has more experience than you and who can openly share successes and failures is an extraordinary gift. The key to getting the most out of such a relationship is your ability not to be judgmental or too hasty in your decisions and to expect the unexpected.
What about you, have you experienced coaching and mentoring before?
Let me know in the comments!