I am often asked, “What is the difference between a coach and a mentor”? In fact, just the other day I received an email from someone inquiring about that very question who described his feeling that “the lines have been blurred”. So that you are well taken care of and don’t waste your hard-earned money, I want to offer you some distinctions between coaching and mentoring.
First, understand that coaching as a profession does not require certification. So anyone can go into business and call themselves a coach. That does not mean they have any training as a coach. Many industries, like photography, are now fraught with people within their industry offering what they refer to as coaching services. Some with remarkably little experience. It makes sense from the perspective that obviously it’s easier to teach in your current area of expertise and call it coaching. But is it coaching?
There are many differences between a coach and a mentor. Perhaps the greatest difference is a philosophical one. A mentor is best described as someone who teaches in their area of expertise. A mentor gives information, passes down their experience and provides as role model you could say. Don’t get me wrong. Mentors play a valuable role. Especially in the arts. Whereas mentoring used to provide an important role in handing down ones craft and art, today it seems most mentoring is business related.
Where a mentor “gives” information, a coach supports and co-creates with the client to realize the client’s particular objectives. The coaching relationship is not based on the coach having all the answers. It’s client focused and with proper training calls forward the client’s full potential. I personally believe one of the greatest roles I play as a coach is to “hold space” for a client. To know their intentions and objectives as if they are my own for the duration of the coaching relationship. Keep the progress steady in the direction of their dreams while meandering around obstacles and distractions. To hold them accountable for their progress.
As I mentioned, fundamentally the biggest difference between a coach and a mentor is a philosophical one. It’s like the old adage, “You can give someone a fish and they can eat for a day (mentor) or you can teach them to fish and they can eat for a lifetime (coach)”.
Simply said, coaching empowers people. Shifts in ways of thinking, concepts, best business practices. These are all changes a trained coach facilitates but the clients OWNS. The growth is their own.
Having said that, you might imagine then that being a coach is a serious responsibility. You are literally holding someone’s expectations, dare to say even their dreams, and likely the sustainability of their business in your hand. That’s why it is important to know that a coach is trained by a reputable program and other Master coaches. My advice is to always ask about a coaches training. And be clear on what you’re looking for. If you are looking to emulate someone, then you may be looking for a mentor. If you’re seeking more in yourself because you know it’s possible but you just don’t know how it’s going to happen yet, then you are looking for a coach. A good coach, a trained coach, will bring it out in you.
If you can imagine coaching being beneficial for you, I have a simple and easy suggestion for you. Reach out and have a conversation. And by the way, I have had a coach or been in training almost every moment for over ten years. Clearly it’s something I see huge benefit in.