What is the difference between coaching and mentoring? Is one better than the other?
We tend to find a combination of the two has the greatest impact. Coaching and mentoring could be at either end of a wide scale. In pure terms:
Coaching would be empowering someone to find their own solutions – consisting of largely asking questions and listening.
Mentoring would be giving advice – consisting of mostly telling, less listening.
In reality though, these two extremes rarely have the positive impact of combining both techniques.
If we just ask questions, we do not give others the benefit of our own experience, learning and expertise.
If we just give advice, we do not give others the chance to reflect on how they could make that advice truly relevant to their situation and take action that is authentically theirs, rather than just trying to repeat what we did.
And so the recommendation is to take the best of both: Coaching with suggestions added in, and mentoring with questions and listening.
What does that look like?
Have you ever had someone give you advice, where you just nodded and smiled, thinking you’ll never do anything with it? This is what we want to avoid.
Great mentoring can be spotted by the interaction between mentor and mentee. The mentee looks engaged and beyond that is talking about how they can apply the mentor’s advice in their personal work situation.
How could you and your business benefit?
Research has revealed that mentoring is one of the most important ingredients to career progression. Hearing about another’s experience, how they have got around challenges in your business, your context, your structure, is the critical learning that enables us to navigate political pathways early on.
Rather than waiting for a new recruit or recently promoted manager to work out for themselves the ways in which things really work – you can use mentoring to show them quickly. That means reduced time to reaching optimum performance levels.
How can I apply this?
When you’re mentoring, consider using the following structure as a rough outline for a session:
- Spend a few minutes at the start of each session building the relationship, getting to know the individual and letting them build trust with you
- Ask them: What do you want to achieve in this session? Or, what’s on your mind at the moment?
- Make sure you get a clear focus for the session, as this will ensure you have more than just a nice chat
- Offer your advice, what’s worked well for you in that scenario, what hasn’t worked etc
- Ask them what they think about that, how they could apply it to their situation, and what they will do before you meet again – commit to action