Coaching and mentoring are two distinct methods of skills development and personal development that senior leaders can use to support their professional and personal growth. There can be confusion around the meaning of both titles, and they are often used interchangeably in conversation.
A simple distinction is that mentoring is the direct transfer or sharing of a mentor’s knowledge and experience to their mentee, whereas coaching is a process whereby the coach uses a variety of skills, abilities, tools, and techniques to draw out from the coachee, that which already exists within them.
Working towards a achieving a goal, coaching can be short-term or fixed time span, whereas mentoring can be a much longer-term relationship. Coaching aims primarily to address specific issues whereas mentoring addresses ongoing development. A mentor may have similar experience to that of the mentee, or a similar professional background, whereas a coach is more often external to the organisation with a completely different background or profession.
Both approaches have the same strategic purpose of supporting a leader to become more effective and capable in their role. Both approaches can be used to openly discuss important and complex issues that may affect the long-term success of a business, either directly or indirectly. However, a business leader may need support in decision making relating to diversifying significantly to other markets or other product portfolio directions, in which case a mentor with specific experience of making an identically aligned strategic move would be appropriate. If the strategic ambition was to improve the likelihood of successfully managing change within the business at a more tactical level, then coaching could be a better approach. For example, adopting a coaching style to help people who may be affected by the change, dealing with how the change will be received, how to communicate change etc.
One-to-one coaching is proven to be a very effective approach. An ICF global coaching client study reported that over 70% of individuals who receive coaching benefited from improved work performance, relationships, and communication skills. 86% of companies felt that they at least recovered their investment in coaching, and 47% at between 10-49 times their investment.
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