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Mentoring vs. Coaching: What’s the Difference?

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March 14, 2019
January 14, 2021
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What happens when 10,000 women speed date?

We do business. We invest. We network and ask smart questions. We share. We learn. As senior business executives, we also come to mentor others and “pay it forward.”

Recently the American Business Journals brought together 10,000 women, mentors and mentees, across 40 U.S. cities, to participate in ten, 8-minute, rapid-fire sessions. The entire morning was full of super-charged energy for everyone involved. In conversations with one mentee, I found myself clarifying the difference between “mentoring” and “coaching.” The distinction is important.

The key goal in “mentoring” is to guide and support personal and professional growth, and the mentee is in charge of the learning. We help individuals identify the right mentor based upon the individual’s long-term career goals. One’s mentor is rarely the direct manager. There are important guidelines to establish up front for a healthy mentoring relationship. And we must not forget, that individuals seeking a mentor might be at all stages of career. Three of the ten women I had the privilege to talk with had more than two decades of career experience. Two of them wanted to pivot to a new career, and the third wanted advice on engaging in new areas of the community.

A coaching relationship can take on two very different forms.

The first and most common form of “coaching” is usually initiated by one’s manager. The purpose is typically to correct inappropriate behavior, guide performance improvement and impart skills. The coach directs the learning and it’s most successful when focused on immediate problems and opportunities in the moment. We use the headline: “Coaching Moment” to signal the staff member to listen carefully. This is feedback.

The second form of coaching is typically when an executive seeks an “executive coach.” This is an outside professional and ideally someone who has walked in the client executive’s shoes. The coach brings credibility. Trust must be established. The successful relationship focuses on high-level strategic challenges in the business, topics such as organizational effectiveness, shifting market conditions, board and shareholder strategies, and problem-solving. The C-level executive can find herself/himself in a very lonely spot, and this is particularly true for the CEO.

What differentiates the work we do at The MPetty Group with our clients is not just the C-level experience, but scientific data that can guide the most challenging business decisions, and all business is a people business.

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