I’m frequently asked about the difference between coaches and mentors. It is true that great coaches often become dedicated mentors. The definition of a mentor is: “A person who gives another person the benefit of his or her years of experience and/or education. This is experience that is shared in such a way that the mentor helps to develop a mentee’s skills and abilities, benefiting the mentee and the organization.” However, there are clear differences between a coach and a mentor.
As I said, coaching is not the same as mentoring. Mentoring is concerned with the development of the whole person and driven by the person’s own work/life goals. It is usually unstructured and informal. Coaching is much more about achieving specific objectives in a particular way. Coaching is also more formal and more structured, usually around a coaching process or methodology.
In other words, mentoring is less skill-based and more of a relationship-based process. A good mentoring relationship is identified by the willingness and capability of both parties to ask questions, challenge assumptions and disagree.
The mentor is far less likely to have a direct-line relationship with the mentee, and in a mentoring relationship, this distance is desirable. Mentoring is rarely a critical part of an individual’s job role but rather an extra element that rewards the mentor with fresh thinking as well as the opportunity to transfer knowledge and experience to a less experienced colleague, peer or employee.