Coaching and Mentoring. What, With What, and When

by Magdalena Kucharska / July 01, 2024
Mentoring and Coaching

Coaching and Mentoring: What, When, and How

Years ago, when I was considering which direction I wanted to develop, where to channel my efforts in the context of self-development and knowledge gathering, the term "coaching" was floating around in my head as a broad concept of supporting an individual. However, as I gained more knowledge about the work of a Coach, its structure and process, I felt that I was missing the element of sharing knowledge, the free 'collision' of ideas, and solving problems together. And then I started looking further to see if there was something that would help me participate in the development of an individual while also giving me the chance to share my experience.

That's when I discovered MENTORING. As the School of Coaching and Mentoring Norman Bennet says: "A mentor is a coach + experience". This was exactly what I was looking for ?

In the field of personal and professional development, the terms "coaching" and "mentoring" appear very often. Although they may seem similar, they differ in many respects. Understanding these differences was crucial for me to effectively use both methods. Below, I will try to describe the most important differences and then compile them into a coherent table.

Time Perspective

Both coaching and mentoring aim to support development in the present and future. Coaching focuses on current problems and planning future actions. For example, a coach can help a client develop strategies for better time management or improve communication skills. In mentoring, besides focusing on current topics, sometimes the past is revisited to draw lessons from it. A mentor can share stories from their career, showing how various experiences have influenced their development.

In both coaching and mentoring, the client typically seeks quick and specific results, making the process more intense and focused on short-term goals. An example might be a manager who needs immediate help with team management or conflict resolution.

In both cases, this can evolve into a long-term process where the mentee gains a broader perspective on career development and professional life. A mentor can help a young employee understand the dynamics of the industry they work in by sharing their own experiences and lessons learned from the past. From my experience, the goal achievement stage in mentoring takes place over 6-8 sessions. Then either the sessions conclude or we build the next goal for the next series of meetings.

Scope of Topics

Coaching can cover a wide range of topics. It often includes various aspects of personal and professional life, supporting clients in their comprehensive development. A coach can help with:

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In mentoring, greater emphasis is placed on career development. Mentors help mentees understand the specifics and dynamics of the industry they work in. This may include:

Relationships and Interactions in Coaching and Mentoring

Coaching relationships are usually characterized by a high degree of formality and structure. The coaching process is often supported by a contract that precisely defines the specific goals the client wants to achieve (e.g., SMART goals), the number of sessions, the meeting schedule, and the definition of expected results.

Coaching relationships are usually more formal, meaning that the coach and client often adhere to specific rules and procedures. Formalization may include both the framework conditions of cooperation and the course of the sessions themselves, structured according to an established plan, which helps maintain focus on key areas of development.

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Mentoring relationships are often more flexible, allowing for meetings to be tailored to the current needs of the mentee. Meetings can take place in various forms and locations, both formal and informal, which encourages the free exchange of ideas. A mentor can adjust their approach to the unique needs and goals of the mentee, allowing for more personalized support. Mentoring meetings often take place in a more relaxed atmosphere, which helps build trust and openness.

The more relaxed form of meetings allows mentees to openly share their concerns, questions, and experiences. Mentors offer emotional support, which helps mentees cope with professional and personal challenges. Mentoring relationships often feature a deeper bond, with the mentor serving as a guide who not only advises but also inspires and motivates the mentee to continuous development.

Of course, in coaching, we also establish a relationship, but from my perspective - in mentoring. Mentoring allows you to look inside your head, sharing stories, advice, tips - this helps build a different kind of bond.

Who Initiates the Process?

In coaching, the initiative usually comes from the client, who independently decides to seek out a coach. The client seeks support to achieve specific goals. This process includes identifying needs, choosing a coach (based on recommendations, the coach's experience, specialization, or the client's personal preferences), and making the final decision (based on various factors such as the coach's availability, costs, working methods, and personal compatibility).

In mentoring, the initiative can come from various sources, making this process more flexible. The initiative can come from the mentee, the mentor, or the organization.

The initiative from the mentee often stems from a desire for development, gaining knowledge, or establishing valuable professional contacts.

Experienced employees or leaders can also independently offer their support to younger colleagues, recognizing their potential and willingness to learn. Mentors can initiate mentoring relationships to share their knowledge and experience. In such cases, we call it “intuitive mentoring”.

In some organizations, mentoring programs are organized centrally by the HR department or managers. The organization encourages employees to use this form of support through formal mentoring programs. Managers or HR specialists identify potential mentors and mentees based on specific criteria such as professional experience, competencies, or development goals. The organization ensures the appropriate matching of mentors and mentees to maximize the effectiveness of the mentoring process. This matching can consider professional compatibility, similar development goals, or personal preferences of the participants.

This does not mean that the initiative for coaching cannot come from the organization or other employees - however, this is much less common in practice ?

The Role of Questions and Feedback

Coaches ask open-ended questions that aim to help the client discover their own solutions and deepen self-awareness. These questions are designed to stimulate reflection and independence in the client, encouraging them to seek answers within themselves. Sample questions may include:

Open-ended questions aim to stimulate the client's thinking and encourage them to reflect on their actions, thoughts, and emotions. This way, the client can better understand their motivations and barriers and find their own most appropriate solutions.

The coaching process promotes independence. The coach serves as a guide who supports the client on their journey to achieving their goals, but the client is responsible for their actions and outcomes.

Feedback in coaching is focused on the client's process and behaviors, with the primary goal of improving effectiveness. The coach provides feedback that helps the client understand which actions are effective and which need modification. For example, feedback may concern:

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In mentoring, questions may be similar to those asked in coaching, but mentors more often share their experiences and advice, adding an extra dimension to the mentor-mentee relationship.

Sample questions may include: Career development ("What challenges have you encountered in your career, and how did you overcome them?") or Work-life balance ("What strategies have you used to maintain a balance between work and personal life?")

Mentors often share their personal stories and lessons learned from their careers. This sharing of experiences can be incredibly inspiring for the mentee and provides practical tips on how to deal with similar challenges.

Feedback in mentoring is more personal and based on the mentor's experiences. Mentors provide advice, share their successes and failures, and offer guidance on how the mentee can improve their actions. This can include:

Measuring Success in Coaching and Mentoring

In coaching, success is measured by achieving clearly defined, specific goals. These goals may include, for example, improving sales results or developing leadership skills:

Coaching is strongly results-oriented and measurable, allowing for precise monitoring of the client's progress. In practice, this can involve regular assessment of progress (setting checkpoints where the client assesses their stage of goal achievement) or even establishing KPIs (using performance indicators that allow for objective measurement of progress, such as the number of new clients acquired in a given period or the reduction in time needed to complete specific tasks).

The coaching process is dynamic, meaning that the coach and client can continuously modify goals and strategies to better meet changing needs and conditions. Discussing progress and identifying areas for improvement occurs during regular feedback sessions. If necessary, the action plan is modified to better adapt to the client's current challenges and goals.

Success in mentoring can be assessed more holistically, considering the mentee's long-term development. For example, this can include:

In both mentoring and coaching, success is measured based on the metrics previously defined by the Client/Mentee. Often, success can be defined as subtle changes in attitudes, knowledge, and skills that manifest only after a longer period. It is also essential to develop strong, supportive relationships that can last for many years and benefit both parties.

In reality, both in mentoring and coaching, the most significant changes occur between meetings - they serve as a checkpoint or catalyst for work until the next meeting.

Practical Applications

Examples of Coaching Programs:

Career coaching. Helps in determining a career path, developing skills needed for advancement, and achieving career goals. A career coach supports the client in identifying and realizing their professional ambitions, helping with career planning and developing key skills.

Leadership coaching. Supports leaders in developing team management skills, decision-making, and building effective strategies. Leaders who use leadership coaching gain tools and knowledge that help them better manage people and processes.

Life coaching. Helps achieve a balance between professional and personal life, managing stress, and developing interpersonal skills. Life coaching supports clients in finding harmony and fulfillment in various aspects of life.

Examples of Mentoring Programs:

Academic mentoring. Academic staff or more experienced students support beginners, helping them achieve academic success and develop academic careers. Academic mentoring can include support in learning, choosing a specialization, and planning an academic career.

Professional mentoring. Experienced professionals support younger employees, helping them adapt to a new work environment and develop their careers. Professional mentoring is particularly valuable for young employees who can benefit from the knowledge and experience of their mentors.

Entrepreneurial mentoring. An experienced businessman or businesswoman supports young entrepreneurs, helping them develop their companies and overcome challenges. Entrepreneurial mentoring offers young entrepreneurs practical advice and support in running and growing their business.

The above examples are not exhaustive and may overlap in some aspects.

In summary - A Mentor is like a Coach who has experience in a field of interest to the mentee. They can use the same techniques and methods of supporting an individual, but the Mentor adds their own examples and personal stories to it.

My accreditation data as a Mentor from EMCC:

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