When it comes to business buzzwords, coaching and mentoring are some of the most overused and misunderstood. They’re thrown in with training, development, CPD, upskilling, and anything else which relates to learning. But they’re very different tools, with very different applications.
The easiest way to understand coaching is to think of it in its most common setting: sports. A football coach gets their job because of their experience and expertise in that particular sport. They might be hired to work with a team’s defenders, because they’ve done the job themselves. They will focus on performance and outcomes by putting a structure and plan into place that works on individual aspects of defending. They will be assessing improvement, by setting specific and measurable objectives. A single footballer might work with multiple specialist coaches, to work on various aspects of their game.
In business, you might work with a coach to develop your sales skills, in order to hit your yearly targets.
A mentor is closer to a football manager, whose responsible is overall development, charisma, and morale. They may not have ever played football before, but they understand the game and how to get the most from their players. Their skills lie in the long-term, helping players find their confidence and ability over the course of a season, or their entire career. Mentors are often compared to therapists, because they listen intently and help mentees come to their own conclusions – rather than instructing them what to do.
In business, you might work with a mentor to develop your resilience, in order to cope with pressure.
Coaches and mentors both play an important role in personal development.
Coaches are more specific, timed and measurable – working on specific skillsets, toward specific outcomes.
Mentors are more holistic and long-term – working on behaviours and mindsets, toward overall development.