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  • Writer's pictureNancy H. Cummings

Mentors Shape Long-term Success

You have a Mentor?

Yes, I do. Actually, I have several people who mentor me right now. And, I have a handful of individuals who have greatly influenced me throughout my career.

One of my favorite mentoring quotes is from the Center for Creative Leadership. They say - “Great leaders need to be mentored. And, great leaders need to mentor.”

Curiosity with coaching and mentoring has surfaced again in many conversations recently. Questions seeking clarity on the differences between the two keep coming up. Almost as if these chats have all been scripted, people wind up sharing bizarre experiences from various work situations.

Interestingly, the stories typically stem from well-intentioned, yet ill-planned, choices in leadership and staff development. Or, an extreme lack thereof.

After stepping back from several of these conversations, I had an epiphany. Of course, there’s confusion between coaching and mentoring in the workplace. The words are being unintentionally used as if they mean the same thing.

These terms have become so muddied; most people don’t know that there is a true difference between the two. How coaching or mentoring might benefit a person and the team seems mundanely similar on the surface. There isn’t a clear-cut operational definition that distinguishes them. So, leaders struggle to make solid decisions surrounding this and they hesitate to allocate appropriate resources.

So, what is workplace coaching and mentoring?

In a nutshell, coaching ensures that a specific skill set(s) is learned. The focus is on the professional role of that individual and the relationship is short-term in nature.

Mentoring is larger in scope than skill set acquisition. It’s transformational for the mentee. It focuses on the whole person and not just their job. The relationship is long-term in order to build the depth of trust required for this deeply meaningful connection.

Renowned institutes, think-tanks, and bodies of research are dedicated solely to coaching and mentoring. They focus on why, how, and when to implement coaching programs or mentoring programs within companies to achieve lasting success.

Let’s be real, though. It is important to know every aspect of both so you can make well-informed decisions for you and your team. Here are eight key things to know about the differences between coaching and mentoring in the workplace.

  1. Transformation - Coaching strives to impact professional behavioral transformation; doing something better. Mentoring aspires to create meaningful personal transformation; becoming someone better.

  2. Emphasis - Coaching is mostly about concrete professional skill development. Mentoring focuses on the whole person, creating safe spaces so the mentee can share critical issues impacting their professional and personal lives.

  3. Duration - Coaching is provided over a short period of time. Mentoring is a long-term relationship that evolves with time and commitment.

  4. Motivator - Coaching exists to improve current performance. Mentoring is pursued to grow the individual for future opportunities.

  5. Delivery - Coaching relies on technology and online platforms to deliver content. Mentoring showcases people's relationships, often through face-to-face sessions (live or electronic).

  6. Performance - Coaching helps poor-performing employees; it’s typically remedial. Mentoring is never remedial; it focuses on potential and ongoing growth.

  7. Benefit - Coaching benefits the person being coached; the coach does not expect to gain insight. Mentoring serves the mentee and mentor; both gain new insights and awareness from the relationship.

  8. Perspective - Coaching hones in on the effectiveness of the person within the business. Mentoring highlights the interconnections of the individual as a whole person within the business and the community.

As you can see, there are very clear differences between workplace coaching and mentoring. Both target team members with completely different goals and desired outcomes. Individuals should know if they are seeking someone to help them focus on specific professional skill development or understanding and showcasing the interconnections they have between work and life balance.

Back to my comment about having several mentors in my life. People who lean in and guide me; sometimes overt in their actions and sometimes unassuming and simply being themselves doing what they do best. All while knowing that I am nearby gleaning everything I can. Here’s to you, my mentors, the people who have inspired me to become who I am today - Dr. Christine Stopka Ph.D., Kellie Farrar, Roger Ricketts, Christopher Stapleton, Darla Ward, and Kathleen Wright. Being in your presence and transforming as a leader and a person because of your influence is such a blessing.

The Collaborative chooses to showcase mentoring as a primary tool in refining leaders and innovating organizational culture. We have a passion for mentoring executive women and aspiring female leaders. We love the honor of being chosen to walk alongside an individual or team who is vested in each other and their community. People who seek the deep, long-term, committed, trust-filled relationship that can go anywhere and grow anyone. For us, mentoring someone to become the best version of themselves, to be best equipped for what lies ahead - this is what it’s all about. Mentoring is one of our greatest joys.

For your situation or your company scenario, it should be pretty clear now. This should help guide you in deciding whether or not you should pursue a coach or a mentor. There is a difference. They are not the same. Take time to know which one will guide you in taking your best next step.

If having a mentor walk alongside you will make a difference for your future, give us a call. We’d love to set up a complementary session and get you headed in the right direction.

Chief Collaborator,

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