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Coach vs Mentor: Key Similarities & Differences To Help You Navigate Life

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You just had coffee with one of your work colleagues. It was one of the most wonderful conversations of your life. You were able to help this person overcome a problem that she had been struggling with for the past two years.

Your colleague thanks you for the help and tells you, “You should be a coach!”

You walk out of the coffee shop feeling like a million bucks. Your heart is full of gratitude and you look forward to helping others. This is the first time you have ever considered changing careers. 

Coaching? It sounds exciting, but what exactly is it?

You get home and start investigating more about this “coaching” thing, and just by typing the word on your search engine, you get nearly 1 billion results!

In your search, you also find another term that looks similar to coaching, and that is mentoring. Now you have no idea which path to pursue!

So let’s dive deep into defining the key similarities and differences between being a coach vs mentor, and how to choose the right path for yourself.

Coach vs Mentor: Key Similarities

Coaching and mentoring have a lot of similar elements. Creating rapport between you and your client, supporting their development, and nurturing the relationship in the time you work together. These are just a few.

In its essence, both the coach and the mentor are committed to their client’s success, but they are not attached to it. 

They both hope the client will get the best value from their conversations. Yet they know that it is their client’s responsibility to take the actions necessary to achieve the desired results.

So, what sets them apart?

Coach vs Mentor: Key Differences

Even though both coaching and mentoring are similar in many ways, there are a few distinctions that make the approach different.

The most significant difference between the two roles is the way information is given

A mentor’s primary approach is giving advice, while a coach rarely does so. A mentor gives direction and information, while a coach provides guidance to discovering that information.

These famous quotes clearly define each approach:

“Coaching is unlocking people’s potential to maximize their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.” – Tim Gallwey

“Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.” – John Crosby 

Another key difference is that a coach doesn’t need to have previous knowledge, skills or experience on a specific subject. A mentor is usually an expert in the field of interest. He has extensive background to support the client.

The main focus of a coach is to ask questions and elicit insights

Coaches know that everyone has everything they need within themselves to create the life that they really want. And they look for ways to elicit insights in their clients so they are able to see this as well.   

On the other hand, a mentor’s focus is to share experience and give advice.

Mentors bring their knowledge, skills and experience to guide others. Even though they know their client is capable of achieving the results they want, they have a more direct role in the conversation. 

Coaching facilitates awareness and self-directed learning, while mentors share their wisdom to provide insight and guidance. This is why you will see that in a mentoring session, a mentor will speak most of the time, while in a coaching session, the coach will be quiet for the most part, listening to what their client has to say.

A mentor starts the relationship with a client who already knows what they want before starting the conversation. A coach helps the person identify what they want and how to create it for themselves.

Which Approach Fits You Best?

Now that you have more clarity on the similarities and differences in a coach vs mentor , let’s go deeper into knowing which of the two is best for you.

A coach enjoys being curious about the way the other person sees their world. A mentor enjoys sharing their knowledge and directing their clients to the best possible outcome for them.

A coach uses their client’s experience as a way for them to create the results that they want. A mentor uses their personal experience to help their clients achieve their results.

A coach encourages their client to be self-accountable for their actions. A mentor leads a more hand-holding process with their clients.

A coach focuses on helping their clients get clear on what they really want, reflect on different perspectives, and explore new possibilities. A mentor works with their clients to give them detailed guidance to reach the goal that they have already identified.

A coach has a formal relationship with their clients, where there is a cadence of structured sessions to work towards their goal. A mentor’s relationship with their clients is more informal and it depends on the mentor’s availability.

How To Find The Right Coach Or Mentor

So, maybe you’re already on a journey and you’re looking for some external support by a coach or mentor. How to find the right one?

Find The Right Mentor

1. You have to be really clear on what you want to achieve professionally, short and long-term. The clearer you are on your goals, the easier it will be to find the right mentor for you as you’ll know what background and experience you are looking for.
2. Think about someone you admire or look up to. Think about the person that you want to become in the next 5-10 years. That will describe what kind of mentor you are looking for. Once you define that, start looking in your current network.
3.Look for a person who has the time and disposition to help you in the process. This will offer consistency in your relationship.

Find The Right Coach

1. Get clear on the area of your life that you need support on. It may be related to your life, relationships, or career. You don’t need to have specific goals. You just need to know that you are ready for a shift and for growth, in that specific area.
2. Look for a coach who specializes in the area that you want to work on. Decide what credentials are important for you when choosing a coach, or if you don’t require them.
3. Find someone who resonates with you. Someone who allows you to be heard and seen without judgment. Someone who creates a safe space for you to explore new opportunities and perspectives. It’s a plus if you can find someone who is a couple of steps ahead of you, so they really understand the best ways to help you.

The right time to look for a coach or mentor will depend on the stage of life you are at, personally and professionally. Also, the stage you want to get to, the obstacles or challenges you are facing, and the kind of support you need.

Having someone to support you in your journey will not only ease the way, but it will also help you grow faster and achieve your goals in a more efficient way.

So, which approach do you most resonate with? Are you currently a coach or a mentor? Or are you interested in becoming one of them? Share with us in the comments below!

About The Author

Francesca Facio

Francesca Facio is a Human Optimization coach, international speaker, and trainer in life design. She is also the Learning Experience Designer, and one of the head coaches for Certified Business Coach by Evercoach. With a postgraduate degree in Happiness and Organizational wellbeing, and certification in Pranic Healing, she combines the Western practices of coaching with the Eastern practices of healing to help her clients find their life purpose, ignite their passion and take the steps towards their personal freedom.

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