How coaching and mentoring are two completely different professions

Economy May 05, 2014 00:00

By Michael Heah
Special to The N

3,174 Viewed

Indeed there is some confusion in the understanding of the two professions of coaching and mentoring. With coaching gaining in popularity, the scale of this confusion has become larger with more people and organisations "missing the point" as to their d

I’d like to offer my views to rectify the situation, as getting the definition wrong can have some adverse ramifications especially on organisations wanting to develop their own coaches or mentors or hire them from outside. 
So what is the difference?
At its core, coaching is a deep learning partnership that usually takes place more at the “heart” level and less on the “head” level of the person. By this I mean it is more about empowering the person to discover their own solutions rather than provide them with the solutions. 
On the other hand, mentoring is a learning discipleship that takes place between an expert and his students. Clearly so, the mentorship role is about providing them with the knowledge, experience, facts and technicalities, etc, that they are more experienced or superior in. 
What is the significance of this definition? 
In coaching, it is really about equal partnership between two people. The coach does not profess to have all the answers and the coachee knows this. They enter into a coaching relationship because they want someone neutral and the objective to stretch them to make discoveries that are not coloured by bias or prejudices. 
This is why coaching is an equal partnership, as both entered into a relationship with both not knowing all the answers, but instead, both will co-create to find the answers. 
In mentoring, the reverse is true. While there is a partnership, it is distinctly not equal, as it is expected that the mentor has the answers and that the mentoree does not need to have them. 
As the mentor is regarded as the expert of a particular field or discipline, the mentoree seeks him because they want ready answers. 
Where are the implications of confusion if not resolved?
First, if it should be coaching that organisations want their “mentors” to do, then they will end up playing the wrong roles with expectations falling widely off the mark of what is targeted to happen. 
Coupled with this, there will be ill feelings and misunderstandings between the appointed mentors or coaches and the organisation for getting each other wrong! 
So who suffers?
Everyone will suffer, including the poor coachees (or mentees) who are at the receiving end of this confusion. 
Second, if organisations think that coaching is actually mentoring, then they may be missing out on the larger picture of what is needed for a person’s total development. 
What comes out of coaching and mentoring?
There are a number of outcomes here in coaching. As coaching deals with the “heart” of the person, it strengthens their self-beliefs to build a vision of what they want, strengthen their confidence, unlock their potential, sharpen their skill set and grow in commitment to do even bigger things for themselves. Ultimately, they learn “how to fish”. 
On the other hand, mentoring is a quicker way for mentorees to get the solutions they want. They need not “work as hard”. This form of intervention is needed for people with a lower baseline in their technical knowledge. A quick shot in the arm may be needed. Ultimately, they are “given the fish” but may not know “how to fish” yet. 
This is where coaching comes in very useful at a later stage in their development to “teach” them how they can fish for life! 
Does it mean that coaches are better than mentors? 
No! Both actually complement one another very well. As mentioned, both have their places at different stages in a person’s growth. 
There is a time when hard knowledge and skills are needed. This is when a mentor is useful. 
But the time must come for mentoring to end and for coaching to take over to build the person’s confidence and courage so that they are continually in momentum to seek and find the knowledge and skills for their own personal growth and fulfilment. 
Corporate Coach Academy is a coaching school in Asia certifying leaders of all backgrounds to become manager-coaches or professional certified coaches in this region. Log onto or email for details.