Mentoring is one of the services our Executive Coaching company provides to some clients. There is sometimes confusion between the terms Mentoring and Executive Coaching. In the books on the subject there are raging academic debates about what each means.
In this article I have written in practical terms how our company differentiates between Mentoring and Coaching. This will hopefully inform you if you are deciding on whether you need a Mentor or Executive Coach. We have both Executive Coaching clients and clients who want a Mentor. The following list explains how we see the differences:
- Mentoring and Coaching can be offered by either internal or external sources to a company or organisation. In both cases the key difference is that clients can be more assured of the independence and confidentiality of an external Mentor or Coach. Whereas an internal Mentor or Coach will always understand the politics and culture of a company better than somebody from outside.
- Although some would argue there is less need for formal qualifications for business Mentoring, we would argue that a qualification is important for a Mentor to be able to provide the best service to a client. Our business mentors all have post graduate Mentoring qualifications.
- Executive Coaching is primarily a non-directive activity. This means executive coaching clients are able to find their own solutions to their topics. The role of the Executive Coach is to ask questions that enable the client to see their topics from a new set of perspectives. The Executive Coach will also provide personal challenge to clients where they seem for example to be contradicting themselves. Executive Coaches may make suggestions or give advice, either where requested or where they are able to be helpful. But this would be no more than in around 20% of the time.
- Mentoring clients tend to be looking for someone with good listening skills who is able to provide an independent view or advice on topics in which he/she has some particular expertise or wisdom. Mentors also need to be able to ask the kind of questions that enable mentoring clients to be able to be able to clarify their own thinking on a subject. In business Mentoring the Mentor is likely to provide more advice and suggestions than an Executive Coach. This could be as high as 50% of the time. Once the percentage of input gets much higher than this we would argue that the client may be looking for a Consultant.
- In Executive Coaching clients are often looking for personal development, or to build business skills. In fact one definition of Executive Coaching is ‘the facilitation of the learning and development of others’. As you can see from our Executive Coaching assignments the subject areas are very wide ranging. The key is that the main role of the Executive Coach is to facilitate the client’s learning and development not to provide advice, instruction or suggestions. To do this effectively the coach needs a good background in psychology, adult learning as well as outstanding listening and questioning skills.
- In Mentoring business clients tend to want support through a particular event or on a specific situation. They are often looking for the support of someone who has had a similar experience. Alternatively they may want the services of a Mentor on a quarterly basis to act as a sounding board on issues, ideas and action plans. One of my clients for instance likes to meet 3 or 4 times a year to discuss plans for the following financial quarter. Another client requests irregular mentoring meetings to talk through mechanisms for building staff engagement. We also have clients who are seeking a Mentor to help them in progressing their career plans.
- An Executive Coach does not need to be a subject expert. As an Executive Coach I work in many industry sectors ranging from manufacturing to retailing. I also work with clients from all areas of the business; HR, Marketing, Supply Chain, Operations, Finance, Operations and Sales. The skill that I bring is in listening, questioning and raising my clients’ awareness on the variety of topics they bring to coaching. We work on their ideas and solutions and their preferred way of implementing them. I may have a view but it’s not my view that matters.
- In Mentoring the Mentor does need to have had relevant experience on the topic in question. It may not be the same situation, or be from the same type of organisation. In fact it’s often more helpful to be able to bring insights from different organisations. So for example I have board level experience of implementing change programmes in the hospitality industry. This is helpful to one of my clients who works in the professional services sector.
In Summary the Key Differences Are;
- Mentoring requires some relevant experience of the topic and coaching does not.
- Mentoring is more directive then Executive Coaching in that more advice and suggestions are given.
- Mentoring tends to be about specific situations and the meetings are less frequent than in coaching. Executive Coaching tends to be related to personal developmental and building capability, and the meetings tend to be on a more frequent basis eg monthly rather than quarterly. In both cases the Executive Coach or Mentor provides an independent and confidential sounding board.
- Both disciplines require qualifications
Keywords; Mentoring, Mentor, Business mentoring, Business Mentor, Executive Coaching, Executive Coaching Company, Difference Between Coaching and Mentoring
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