Many find the difference between business mentoring and coaching confusing and often believe the two terms are interchangeable. Given the many definitions of mentoring and coaching this confusion is understandable. This post attempts to define the key differences between the two disciplines.
One of the better definitions of mentoring (from MentorSET) is it is a partnership between two people (mentor and mentee) normally working in a similar field or sharing similar experiences. It is a helpful relationship based on mutual respect and trust. A mentor should ask questions and challenge while providing guidance and encouragement.
The key difference between mentoring and coaching is a mentor is generally more experienced and qualified than the mentee whereas a coach often has no specific experience of the mentees occupation or role. A mentor can often use their specific knowledge and contacts to open doors that otherwise may be closed to the mentee.
Coaching tends to be short term and focussed on specific issues whereas mentoring tends to take a broader view and can last for a considerable amount of time. Mentoring tends to take more of an interest in the person and their development than coaching which is more focussed on specific development issues.
In any mentoring process the mentee generally sets the required agenda and the mentor simply provides the guidance and support required. Generally a mentor provides challenges to the mentee and makes them accountable for their progress. With coaching the focus is on achieving specific and short term goals. The agenda is often set by a manager or immediate superior.
In conclusion there are actually major differences between business coaching and mentoring. Effective coaching may be delivered by a coach without specific industry or discipline expertise and is focussed on helping a person learn rather than by teaching. A mentor uses specific and relevant expertise to teach and guide the mentee.