The difference between coaching and mentoring

Coaching – Socratic method based one-on-one discussions where the coach uses a series of questions and appreciative inquiry to help the leader discover her/his own path, answers, and epiphanies. Advice is not allowed in this model.

Competency Coaching – This is a blend of the previous definition of coaching with the addition of content around specific leadership competencies added in to the experience to raise the level of practical ability of the leader on a one-on-one basis.

Mentoring – Mentoring is a blend of shared experiences, socratic coaching, and advice.

Counseling – dealing with personal and interpersonal dynamics to help an individual gain perspective and clarity on the areas of their life that are causing angst, discomfort, or uncertainty.

This thread in wikipedia is also helpful.

Appended note based on Dan Pontefract’s question in comments (thx Dan!):

Coaching Culture – a coaching culture is a leadership methodology that blends learning, support and direction – the leader as a coach and mentor instead of old paradigm of task master extrordinaire. The goal of the leader in a coaching culture is to lead, guide, and grow the abilities of their team, using a combination of shared learning and experiences, insightful questions (see appreciative inquiry), and access to learning resources. This includes seeing everyone as a leader so the approach is 360 (peers, direct reports, my boss). A key component of this approach is a common set of language protocols which encourage open dialogue, candour, transparency, and ideological conflict (instead of interpersonal conflict).

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4 responses to “The difference between coaching and mentoring

  1. how would you classify a ‘coaching culture’ then?

    • Great question Dan. My short answer: a coaching culture is a leadership methodology that blends learning, support and direction – the leader as a coach and mentor instead of old paradigm of task master extrordinaire. The goal of the leader in a coaching culture is to lead, guide, and grow the abilities of their team, using a combination of shared learning and experiences, insightful questions (see appreciative inquiry), and access to learning resources. This includes seeing everyone as a leader so the approach is 360 (peers, direct reports, my boss). A key component of this approach is a common set of language protocols which encourage open dialogue, candour, transparency, and ideological conflict (instead of interpersonal conflict).

      This is how we work together at ViRTUS…

  2. “Pure” coaching is all about the client (or employee) and not the coach. What the coach thinks, feels, or would do is almost irrelevant. What’s important is what the client is going to do; how the client is going to do it; and what the client can learn from the experience. A good coach helps the client chart his or her own unique path; helps the client figure it out on his/her own; and helps foster self-discovery and self-directed learning. “I am helping you, but I am helping you figure it out for yourself; I am helping you do it on your own; I am helping you learn from what you did.” If the coach does all of the thinking for the client, the coach creates weakness and dependency rather than development, growth, and empowerment. The coaching purist tries to have no agenda whatsoever except to help the client go to where he wants and needs to go, and ultimately, to help the client help himself.

    This is not always possible for the everyday coaching that a manager does. Day to day, a manager usually has a vested interest in the agenda. It is the manager’s job to shape the employee’s job, have the final say on work goals, determine how much the employee is expected to achieve, and so on. In other words, managers are not only responsible for helping employees “find their game” and achieve their full potential in a general sense. They are also responsible for ensuring employees get the job done (we might call this “directed” coaching). This involves a variety of related management practices, e.g.,

    • orientation: introducing new employees to the organization’s values, culture, support systems;
    • on-the-job training: teaching employees how to do certain aspects of their jobs;
    • performance management: providing feedback on both job performance and development goals;
    • coaching: helping employees achieve performance targets and development goals; and
    • mentoring: transferring knowledge and providing guidance through workplace and career challenges.

    Coaching models must be flexible enough to serve all of these interconnected purposes and practices. It must be flexible enough to support both pure and directed coaching. It must enable managers to coach employees on performance improvement, skill development, and adherence to core values. And it must help drive, reinforce, and sustain a culture of coaching (the topic of my next entry).

  3. What is a culture of coaching?

    A coaching culture is a culture in which high quality coaching practices are common place; the norm; part of the way things get done. It is a culture in which continuous learning and improvement is taking place. In a culture of coaching, you will see clear metrics (expectations) around coaching, learning, and improvement; concrete action plans; and both effort (intense commitment to coaching) and achievement (results from coaching efforts).

    In a culture of coaching, EMPLOYEES at all levels (with the executives leading by example) are taking the initiative to seek out and learn from feedback; are proactively looking for opportunities for development and growth; are regularly setting and achieving both performance and learning goals; are taking a great deal of ownership in their own development; and are willing and able to learn from their mistakes when given the opportunity to do so.

    In a culture of coaching, MANAGERS are competent at deploying and developing talent; giving constructive feedback; helping employees achieve both performance and development goals; and turning mistakes into learning opportunities. Managers in these organizations also excel at developing other leaders (younger / future leaders). I.e., in a culture of coaching, many or most managers are good at coaching and are getting results from their coaching efforts.

    In a culture of coaching, the ORGANIZATION puts its weight behind continuous coaching, learning, and improvement. It does of good job of designing and deploying organizational systems and structures to drive, reinforce, and sustain the coaching culture. E.g., the organization will excel at selecting (hiring & promoting), developing, rewarding, and retaining managers who are good at developing talent. And in addition to ensuring its employees are well trained, it will do a better than average job of teaching employees how to think and learn. In other words, the organization intentionally manages the coaching culture with discipline and rigour. Instead of hoping the cream will rise to the top, or waiting for the fittest to survive (the ones we don’t lose to the competition), the motto here is: “Proactive development of the fittest!”

    Finally, in a culture of coaching, debriefing (critical reflection) will be a common practice at the individual, team, and organizational levels. There will be a passionate commitment to learning from experience and driving strategically relevant improvement. As Aldous Huxley said: “Experience is not what happens to you; it’s what you do with what happens to you.”

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