There are a lot more professionals calling themselves a ‘mentor’ or ‘coach’ these days, but I think there is confusion around what that actually means. I know some incredibly business minded people who disagree with me on this, but I firmly believe while these two roles can have similar skill sets, coaching is a service (that you charge for) and mentoring is a gift (so, you know, you don’t charge for). Here’s why:
When you think of a coach, what kind of person comes to mind? For many people, someone who calls themselves a coach will fall into two general types, fitness and business.
In fitness, they could be heading up a football team, working one to one in a specific area like swimming or running or tennis; they could be a personal trainer working on general health and fitness but all of them will:
Similarly, in a business environment or for professional development, a coach will guide you and help you to move up to the next level. They will hold you to account, and you will pay them for expertise.
A mentor is a successful person who you look to for advice, insight, and guidance. They are not necessarily an expert in a mentee’s field but are usually highly experienced in theirs.
The origin story of mentoring dates back to Greek Mythology and the role of a mentor has always been to take a mentee under their wing, to listen, help reflect, and guide. They are not paid for it; rather it is a responsibility that is gifted.
I work with many organisations to set up mentoring programs. They are such an excellent way to build relationships and build upon team intelligence, especially in more hierarchical workplaces. They help keep great knowledge in the business, as well as nurture new thinking and innovation.
Mentoring programs can be a great reward and motivator and are always an excellent way of sharing and keeping skilled people in the business. They keep the mentee and mentors focused on their personal and professional development, amongst many more benefits.
Along with implementing mentor programs, I spend time coaching mentors and mentees in how to develop the best possible mentor/mentee relationships. With a mentee, for example, I help them to clarify what they need in a mentor and prepare for conversations with a mentor in order to make the most of the sessions together.
When I coach mentors, I show them how to get clarity around a mentee’s goals, how to provide feedback, and how to help the mentee reflect and be active in helping themselves. I base these questions on my downloadable guides: