Coaching and mentoring: what’s the difference?

Easily conflated, the two actually offer different benefits to organisations says one L&D expert.

Coaching and mentoring: what’s the difference?
While the terms ‘coaching’ and ‘mentoring’ seem to be used interchangeably, there are actually some key differences, said Denise Fleming, founder and managing director of Foresight’s Global Coaching.
“While both coaching and mentoring have proven to be excellent investments for the development of a senior executive, it’s important to be clear on what each option provides.”
In one-to-one coaching, training is delivered through identifiable objectives while progress feedback is supplied to sponsors and stakeholders at regular intervals.
On the other hand, individual mentoring is offered without any identifiable objectives. There are therefore no measures of success and no feedback.
“The context can influence whether a coach or a mentor is the best solution for an engagement to provide an executive with support,” Fleming said. “The scope and scale of a leader’s accountabilities as well as the complexity of the organisation and its environment need to be considered.”
Why choose coaching?
Coaching in a private space allows for in-depth, highly confidential discussions, she said. Through customisation, coaching can include targeted outcomes that aim on broadening knowledge, skills and behaviour.
“Executive coaching delivers the objectives of both the client and the organisation,” Fleming said. “Coaching objectives are provided by the organisation’s sponsors – chairman, CEO, HR or line manager, for example.”
The coaching will be delivered in the context of relevant markets, industries and environments that lie within the scope of the executive’s role.
Why choose mentoring?
Mentoring is more appropriate when an executive needs a ‘sounding board’ to work with, Fleming said, with mentors and executives working together to jointly set their objectives.
“Mentors provide CEOs, group or country heads, for example, with an entirely private space enabling in-depth, highly confidential one-to-one discussions.
“The engagement is an iterative process and may facilitate a different way of approaching business and people issues, identifying blockages or intransigent issues. It may also challenge and explore different perspectives.”
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