Module 11: How Mentoring Differs from Coaching

Module Eleven: How Mentoring Differs from Coaching

Earlier in this workshop, we defined the terms coaching and mentoring. We learned that both concepts vary greatly in terms of the goal each sought to achieve. In this module, you are going to learn the practical differences and blend the two for a balanced development program. In addition, we will discover how to integrate the GROW module when you are mentoring your employee and finally, you will learn how to focus more on building relationships. Let us start by comparing the practical differences between coaching and mentoring.

The Basic Differences

There are differences between coaching and mentoring. Each typically has goals to accomplish, but the methods are vastly different.

Coaching has the following characteristics:

  • Interaction is usually not voluntary
  • The interaction usually is for a set amount of time.
  • The interaction is structured and meetings are typically confined to scheduled meetings
  • Coach does not necessarily have to be an expert on the coaching topic
  • Generally, the interaction is short-termed and focus usually in one or two areas of development
  • The focus is on a particular job function developmental issue
  • The goal is to produce a more immediate change or result
  • Coaching is typically targeting specific opportunities for improvement

Mentoring has the following characteristics:

  • Interaction is usually voluntary
  • Relationship is usually long-term over an extensive period of time
  • Interaction is less structured with more causal than structured meetings
  • Mentor is usually regarded as an expert in their field and is a resource to the protégé
  • Career development is the overall goal of mentoring
  • The goal is to develop areas that the protégé deems necessary for their development for future roles
  • Mentoring targets the entire career path of a protégé

Let us see how we can blend the two models for an effective development program for your employees.

Blending the Two Models

Depending on the type of working environment, you have and the overall goal of your employee, you may want to combine the characteristics of coaching with mentorship. What you decide to use depends on the current work environment, the type of advancement opportunity your employee has and the time you or someone else have to give to develop the target employee.

There is no right or wrong answer when determining which characteristic you want to combine. Simply pick the ones that will help you achieve maximum results. For example, you may want to blend the more casual approach to meeting with your employee with a targeted area of development. On the other hand, you may want to blend the relationship-building aspect of mentoring to the planned meeting intervals.

The approach you determine is considered the best for you environment. Here is a list of benefits you realize when you combine coaching with mentorship:

  • Increased flexibility
  • Allows you to supervise your employee while acting autonomous
  • Allows your employee to determine what they want to develop
  • Your employee will feel more empowered in their development
  • You can enlist the help of other managers in the development of your employee
  • Greater satisfaction for both you and your employee

In essence, blending the two models provides more flexibility with the monitoring you need to ensure your employee is on the path to career development.

Adapting the GROW Model for Mentoring

Adapting the GROW model to mentoring is very easy to do. When coaching, the GROW model is used as a guide for the coach to structure their dialogue with their employee. The coach develops the goal and guides the employee to reach a goal the coach selects.

In mentoring, the GROW model is used as a guide to questioning the protégé on when development path they want seek. Here the mentor asks open-ended questions that form the basis of the mentoring program. Here are some questions you can use when you want to use GROW for mentoring purposes:

  • Goal: What are your career goals? What do you want to accomplish in the next year?
  • Reality: Where are you in relation to your career goal? What are you lacking that you need to have in order to reach that career goal?
  • Options: What are activities you think will help you develop those missing skills? How do you want to go about developing the skills necessary to advance your career?
  • Wrap it up: What is your plan? How do you want to go about this?

Focusing on the Relationship

When you coach, the relationship is hierarchal, meaning that you are driving the process and the employee must respond. Mentoring is not meant to be set up that way. Mentoring is a shoulder-to-shoulder type relationship. In coaching your focus is on reaching goal with a targeted development plan.

On the other hand, mentoring is sharing and guiding your protégé. It requires less structure but more relationship building. Being a mentor to someone creates a special relationship where the mentor watches over the protégé, guides them, and corrects them in different situations. There is not a set intervention. It is constant awareness, looking out for pitfalls and political traps that are common in the work environment.

Mentors also become more involved in the protégé’s life, demonstrating caring, understanding, and guiding them through it from the employment perspective. Deep personal issues should be taken care of by professionals; however, guiding them to that professional level is a mentor’s job.

Here are some behaviors that help to foster a good relationship between a mentor and a protégé:

  • Demonstrate caring by listening for issues that are not readily disclosed to you. Perhaps you over hear a conversation where your protégé is struggling with something. Demonstrate care by encouraging your protégé to discuss it with you.
  • Demonstrate understanding by acknowledging and empathizing with your employees situation. Take the time to fully grasp what is going on and acknowledge it is real and that you would feel the same if you were in their shoes.
  • Demonstrate listening by giving your undivided attention and avoid interruptions when talking with them like answering the telephone or looking at email. Notate and mirror things back to your protégé to demonstrate you are listening.
  • Demonstrate respect by keeping the relationship professional at all times. Avoid degrading your protégé or using causal language in front of others. Show you respect your employee as if they were an equal.

Keeping an eye on the relationship is just as important as keeping focus on the goal. The mentor-protégé relationship is delicate because the employee must see the value of the relationship. If they do not see a relationship, then the purpose for mentoring is gone.

We are near the close of this workshop, and it is time to wrap this class up. Let us here some words from the wise before we do close this session.

Case Study

Dave was the floor manager of a paper mill. He was asked to coach a sales representative named Jerry so that he may more effectively help the company. Dave wanted to devote more time to Jerry, but was still needed as the floor manager. Dave decided upon a blend of coaching and mentoring so that he could still remain the floor manager and coach Jerry at the same time. The combination of the two methods did more than that though. He soon realized that Jerry was benefiting as well. He had a sense of empowerment and confidence because he was more influential in his development, and he was receiving coaching from a variety of experienced managers and supervisors that gave him a bigger source of knowledge to draw from. Dave felt the compromise worked out for both of them.