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Mentoring vs Coaching: Differences, Types, Benefits & Examples

Mentoring vs Coaching The Key Differences & List of Benefits

If you’re looking to get an edge over your competition, you’ve probably come upon the mentoring vs coaching debate.

These two approaches to improving your performance and expertise are sometimes mixed up and even used interchangeably. However, there are several key differences separating mentoring from coaching.

In this article, we’re going to define these two development tools and recommend which option is better for you.

Mentoring Defined

Mentoring is a directed approach to increasing the skills of your employees. The mentor is usually a more experienced person in a senior position who passes down his knowledge and experience to junior mentees.

Throughout the mentoring process, mentorees receive direction, feedback, and advice to better themselves and improve both, their personal and professional qualities.

Coaching Defined

Coaching is a popular approach to increasing the expertise of your employees. It’s characterized by the fact that a coach doesn’t tell or order coachees what to do.

Rather, a good coach is a guide that can orient your employees on the correct path of improvement. Coaches rarely offer rigid training programs, but more commonly listen to their coachees and help them to solve arising problems.

The Key Differences Between Mentoring and Coaching

While mentoring and coaching are similar strategies to improve the expertise of your employees, they are slightly different approaches.

Mentoring is more personal and long-term, helping a mentee to reach his overall potential as a person and as a professional.

On the other hand, coaching is more likely to be short-term and aims to improve a specific skill of a coachee.

Skills and Training

In the U.S., neither mentoring nor coaching is regulated by the government. Unlike medical doctors or most mental health professionals like psychotherapists, mentors, and coaches are not required to have a license to operate.

That being said, coaches are more likely to have some kind of training on coaching and possess special interpersonal skills, while mentors usually have decades of experience in the field.

Assessments and tools

Mentors: Rarely use assessments or tools, and if they do, it’s usually something unique to a specific situation that a mentee is in.

Coaches: Usually use a variety of tools and assessments to better know their coachees. For example, a coach could use Gallup’s StrengthsFinder to get an insight into the strengths of his coachees.

Conversational viewpoint

Mentors: Are more direct, and while they also hope to teach their mentees how to solve their problems themselves, mentors usually offer concrete answers and solutions.

Coaches: Ask open-ended questions that help coachees to get on the right path of improving their skills.

Domain expertise

Mentors: Hold a senior position in the company and have accumulated both professional and interpersonal skills that they attempt to pass down to their mentees.

Coaches: Usually have field-specific skills that they try to teach their coachees.

Short vs long-term focus

Mentors: Offer a long-term commitment over a span of years or even decades to help a mentee develop his personal qualities and career.

Coaches: Offer a short-term goal-based commitment aiming to improve a specific skill of a coachee.

Formality of engagement

Mentors: Tries to connect with a mentee on a personal level while maintaining an appropriate level of professionalism.

Coaches: Schedule structured meetings weeks in advance. A relationship between a coach and a coachee is most likely to be professional.

Table with Examples & Techniques of Mentoring and Coaching

The following table of mentoring and coaching comparisons will help you to understand the differences between each approach better. Seeing how they differ side-by-side is the easiest way to decide whether mentoring or coaching is the best solution for your employees.

Topic Mentoring Coaching
Agenda A mentor creates the mentoring agenda that is followed by a mentee. A coach creates a coaching agenda together with a coachee.
Expertise Mentors have general knowledge and expertise in the area of relevance. Coaches possess specific skills that they try to teach their coachees.
Focus Mentors aim to develop their mentees and unlock their potential for future improvement. Coaches aim to improve the performance of their coachees in a specific area of work.
Outcome Mentoring doesn’t have a specific goal but aims for continuous and overall improvement. Coaching aims to reach a specific performance goal and ends after it’s attained.
Structure More informal and reflects on the current needs of a mentee. Professional, planned in advance, follow a rigid structure.
Timeframe Usually long-term Usually short-term
Questioning Mentees ask mentors questions about obstacles and problems standing in their path of development. Coaches ask open-ended questions that help coachees improve by answering and self-reflection.

What are the 3 Types of Mentoring?

One-on-One Mentoring

One-on-one mentoring is probably the most popular mentoring type out there. It’s when a senior mentor mentors a single mentee at a time.

It’s the most personal and in most cases effective type of mentoring because of a strong bond between a mentor and a mentee that develops over time.

Peer Mentoring

Peer mentoring is when two people of similar seniority mentor each other. While both people are likely to have similar expertise and knowledge, two brains are always better than one, and both people can advise each other in areas where the other is lacking.

Virtual Mentoring

These days more and more work is being done online, and mentoring is not an exception. With the help of modern technology, including video conferencing software and other digital tools, mentoring can be done at a distance.

What are the 3 Types of Coaching?

Performance Coaching

This is the most popular type of coaching. It’s when an effective coach helps a coachee to improve a specific skill that is required for his job.

Coaching for Performance is very structured, planned out in advance, and usually has a defined timeframe. Performance coaching is deemed successful if a coachee improves his performance at the desired level.

Team Coaching

Team coaching capability is similar to performance coaching, the main difference is that during team coaching, a coach helps an entire group of people at once.

Instead of meeting up one-on-one with every coachee, a business coach gives instructions to an entire team of people. Team coaching can also be used to improve team skills instead of individual skills, making an entire team work more efficiently.

Virtual Coaching

Just like virtual mentoring, virtual coaching is done online thanks to modern technology. It can be both performance or team coaching, but the main characteristic of virtual coaching is that it’s done utilizing video conferencing software.

Mentoring vs. Coaching: Which is Best for You or Organization

When a Mentor is Best for You or Your Organization

A mentor is best for you if you’re feeling stuck in your professional career and are looking to change that. Having a mentor around you will help you to improve most areas of your life, and push you to achieve your maximum potential.

Going through mentorship will also create a bond between you and a mentor, and it’s incredibly valuable if you want to have an older and more experienced person in your circle who can show you the ropes of life.

Mentors are great for organizations if you’re feeling that the culture of it could be improved. If you see that employees are not as motivated as they could be and it impacts their results, hiring a mentor could be a great solution to consider.

All in all, a mentor is great for:

  • Seeing outsider’s perspectives on problems
  • Getting direction and advice
  • Growing professional network

When a Coach is Best for You or Your Organization

A coach can help you if you feel that your skillset is lacking. If there are one or two specific areas of expertise that constantly pose a challenge, getting coached can help you get through it and improve your performance at work.

Coaching for your company is best when you see that your employees are not performing optimally because of a low level of competence. You can have the best employees possible, but if they lack a single skill it can show itself to be critical for achieving maximum performance.

Getting a coach for your organization can solve this problem and increase efficiency and productivity as a whole.

Briefly, a coach is best for:

  • Increasing performance
  • Receiving structured feedback
  • Improving a specific skill

How to Measure Return on Investment (ROI) of Mentoring and Coaching

Mentoring and coaching can be great options to improve your employees, but you have to carefully evaluate whether it’s working. One of the best ways to do so is to measure the Return on Investment (ROI) of mentoring and coaching programs.

If you have to spend more money on mentoring and coaching than the value it brings, maybe it’s not working for your organization. However, if you’re dissatisfied with the ROI of mentoring or coaching, it doesn’t mean that you should scrap these strategies for improving your personnel.

Maybe the mentor or the coach you’ve hired wasn’t the right fit and another professional would result in a higher ROI.

How to Measure Return on Investment (ROI) of Mentoring and Coaching

That being said, how can you measure the Return on Investment and the progress of mentoring and coaching? Briefly, you have to measure the dollar productivity of your employees before and after the mentoring or coaching program and then evaluate whether the increase in productivity was worth the cost of said program.

Imagine if you’ve hired a sales coach for your sales department. Then randomly pick a subset of employees that will undergo a training program so you can do A/B testing. At the start of the coaching program, calculate the average value of sales per month of each employee in both of the groups.

After the coaching program, compare the difference in the average value of sales between both groups and calculate whether the increase in performance was worth the money you’ve paid for coaching.

Here’s a concrete example of how it could look like:

Group Avg. Value of Sales/MonthBefore Coaching Avg. Value of Sales/MonthAfter Coaching % Change
Coached $6,323.13 $8,543.36 +35.1%
Not Coached $6,105.04 $6,422.94 +5.2%

From this table, we can see that in this hypothetical scenario, coached employees increased their sales by 35.1%, compared to the 5.2% increase in employees who didn’t undergo coaching.

This means that this coaching program increased the average sales of each employee by 29.9%. Now you can derive the ROI of mentoring or coaching and make a decision whether it was financially beneficial to your company.

If it was, it’s most likely best to provide that training to the rest of the employees who were not in the coached group of the A/B test.

Mentoring Vs. Coaching FAQ

What Qualities Make a Good Mentor?

A good mentor has tons of knowledge in his field of expertise. That’s why mentors are usually older people who have worked in the industry for decades. It makes them capable of sharing valuable insights with their mentees which results in growth and improvement.

Additionally, a good mentor is flexible to the needs of his mentees and is capable of dealing with every arising problem throughout the mentorship process.

What is The Purpose of Mentoring and Coaching?

Both coaching and mentoring aim to improve a person by giving useful advice and showing the correct path of improvement. mentors and coaches are usually more experienced than mentees and coachees, and it makes them great authority figures who can develop you personally and professionally.

What are the Similarities Between Coaching and Mentoring?

Both practices are not legislated and the line between them is blurred. Because of that, there are many similarities between coaching and mentoring, and coaches can sometimes act as mentors and vice versa.

The main similarity is that both of these approaches aim for the same result – increasing your competence. Whether you choose coaching or mentoring, you can be sure that both, your personal and professional life will improve as a direct result of it.

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