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Life and Work Blog

5 Ways Coaching Is Different Than Mentoring

Dec 5, 2017 6:32:35 PM / by Chris Heinz

Do you know the difference between coaching and mentoring? A study by the International Coach Federation suggests you may not. In the 2017 Global Consumer Awareness Study, respondents were asked to select the definition of coaching among other modalities such as mentoring, consulting, training, and counseling (yes, they’re all different).

Of 27,000 respondents, 30% correctly defined coaching, but 70% did not. According to the study, “This shows that, while many consumers have a clear understanding of what coaching is and is not, there is still confusion in the marketplace among individuals who believe they know what coaching is but have confused it with another modality.”

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What was the most common mistake? Confusing mentoring with coaching. 26% of respondents thought coaching was the same as mentoring. So in order to clear up the haze, here are five ways coaching is different than mentoring.

Which subject to master

In mentoring, the mentor is the expert of certain subjects like business or marriage or faith. The student comes to the mentor to grow in areas in which the mentor has found success. The mentor is the sage. In coaching however, the coach is the expert of the coaching process. The client comes to the coach so the coaching approach may be applied to his areas of interest. Therefore, the coach is not the sage, but rather the master of the coaching process.

Who sets the agenda

In mentoring, the mentor decides how the student ought to grow. He has success in mind and plans the steps accordingly. The student keeps asking, “What’s next?” and the mentor tells him. However, in coaching, the client sets the agenda. The coach asks, “What would you like to walk away with?” and begins working on the client’s agenda. If the client doesn’t know, the coach asks questions to draw it out. In coaching, the client sets the agenda.

Where learning comes from

In mentoring, the student asks questions of the mentor. Remember, the mentor is the sage, so he has all the answers. Even if he asks occasional questions, he’s still the sage whose role is to transmit information and experience so the student learns from the mentor. But coaching is different. The role of the coach is to ask questions to stir insight and understanding so the client learns from himself. In coaching, learning comes from within through powerful coaching questions.

Whom to become

In mentoring, the goal is for the student to become more like the mentor. The mentor has found success in certain areas and says, “Become more like me.” In coaching however, the goal is for the client to become more of himself. The coach’s aim is to help unlock the client’s potential, so he may become more of himself. Instead of “Become more like me,” the coach says, “Become more like you.”

Whose life is invited into

In mentoring, the mentor invites the student into the mentor’s life. He talks about himself and his relationships and his work and he may even have the student over to meet the family. But coaching is different. In coaching, the coach invites the client into the client’s life. He helps the client to see the client’s life from different angles and vantage points. It’s the client’s life that the client is invited into.

There's value in mentoring and value in coaching. If you need a mentor, find a mentor, but if you need a coach, go for a coach.

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Topics: Coaching

Chris Heinz

Written by Chris Heinz

I want to help you see yourself soar. I'm a trainer and coach around strengths, the Enneagram, and employee engagement. As the Chief People Officer for EnergyCAP, Inc., I'm also a top-rated Learning Partner for Penn State. I hold coaching certifications from Gallup and the International Coach Federation, and am getting certified in the Enneagram. My writing has been featured as "Best of the Week" by "Human Resources Today." I'm also the author of the “Made To Pray” book and prayer assessment, which helps people find their prayer strengths. I live with my wife and three children in central PA and blog from www.ChrisHeinz.com.