Dear Workforce What Is the Distinction Between Coaching and Mentoring

By Staff Report

Feb. 23, 2007

Dear Confused:

It is easy to become confused about coaching and mentoring. To add to the confusion, it is important to distinguish between coaching as a management skill set and professional coaching performed by a professional outside your company.

The similarities have more to do with the required skill sets that mentoring and coaching share. Both the mentor and coach use strong interpersonal and communication skills as well as intentional coaching skills. The objectives of the mentor and coach can be similar–to increase personal work-related effectiveness within the work/organizational culture. Both are organizational resources that can greatly enhance one’s professional and personal learning and development and achievement of goals.

Characteristic Mentoring
1. Primary location Internal Internal or external
2. Primary role Senior-level in authority or expertise within the company. Longer-than- average tenure in company. Can be on technical track with an interest in coaching or a management track with an interest in helping develop talent for his/her organization. Professional coach with specific training applicable to professional coaching. Certified in the use of work-related personal assessment tools.
3. Experience and knowledge required  Broad organizational perspective around the company’s structure, policies, processes, politics
 Similar future career direction

 Has broad, multiple work experiences related to person’s interests
 Past successful business experience
 Formal education/experience in organizational psychology and coaching

 Certified in the use of personal work-related assessments (behavioral, personal values, soft skills, job competencies, etc.)
4. Goals  Support success and advancement
Support and advise on career development

 Serve as a personal advocate

 Advise the person on best ways to maneuver the political waters of an organization and open doors

 Provide advice about strategies for best way to accomplish work goals
 Support success and advancement
 Create greater self-awareness around strengths and weaknesses and opportunities for learning and development

 Help people identify personal goals that support work goals

 Maintain focus on desired areas/objectives

 Help people accomplish personal development faster than if left on their own
5. Methods  One-on-one face-to-face meetings, lunch or dinners
 Casual setting

 Knowledge sharing

 Tells, advises, suggests, instructs
 One-on-one phone or face-to-face meetings
More formal structure with informal conversational tone

 Measurable goals established

 Personal talent/personality/soft-skill assessments

 Periodic meetings with boss

 Use of provocative questions to expand the person’s universe
6. Involvement of others May be directed to others to accomplish work Typically includes boss of person being coached to articulate work-related goals and key accountabilities
7. Scope Organizational and career maneuvering within context of current job and future potential Personal and professional development within context of current job and future potential

Using a combination of mentoring and coaching can be exponentially more rewarding to both the individual and to the organization over using just one or the other strategy. For more on reasons for employing a coach, please Why Employ a Personal Coach.

For more on mentoring, please seeMentoring Matters.

SOURCE: Carl Nielson, principal, the Nielson Group, Dallas, April 24, 2006.

LEARN MORE: An outline of eight steps in the coaching process is found here. Also, some companies are finding that group mentoring can be a cost-effective alternative to the old one-on-one style.

The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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