While ago I was privy to a conversation between an established coach and a senior human resource manager in a thriving bank in Nigeria. The coach asked the manager if her organisation had any internal coaches or gave room for external coaches to have sessions with staff.
The human resource manager replied in the affirmative by stating that coaching was encouraged at her workplace, she went on to describe what happened at her organisation, myself and the coach came to the conclusion that the organisation was involved in mentoring and not coaching.
That was when it hit me, there is a very blurred line between what coaching and mentoring. It is encouraging that many organisations now encourage peer to peer mentoring and supervisor to subordinate mentoring especially in cases of succession plans and promotions, but it is also important not to mistake coaching for mentoring or vice versa.
This article will attempt to succinctly draw the line between coaching and mentoring, especially in the context of the workplace.
The International Coaching Federation defines coaching as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximise their personal and professional potential.A mentor, is someone who offers their knowledge, expertise and advice to those with less experience. By leveraging their experience and skills, mentors guide mentees in the right direction.
What does a workplace mentor do?
As earlier mentioned a mentor helps mentees explore their career options, set development goals, develop new contacts and identify resources. In this way, a mentor serves as a professional advisor and role model for the mentees. The role of a mentor would usually change as the needs of the mentee changes. In most cases mentoring relationships are informal and the relationship between the mentor and the mentee forms the bedrock of the mentorship relationship. Good mentors are always willing to share their skills and knowledge with the mentees. Since they have faced the same challenges as their mentees, they are more empathetic towards their needs.
To inspire and build trust and confidence, mentors possess a positive and can-do attitude. These qualities make it easier for the mentees to discuss their professional goals and concerns with them.
From a business perspective, mentors help employees gain more confidence in their work and develop skills to add value.
What does a workplace coach do?
Coaching at work takes a fully different approach. In a business environment the key to a successful coaching relationship is structured collaboration. The coach does not direct or act in an authoritarian manner but collaborating with the employee or coachee to identify, target, and plan for performance improvement. In the workplace the coach acts as facilitator to help the employee achieve self-realisation around opportunities for improvement by asking probing, and often tough, questions and challenging the employee to think about their goals as well as how to achieve them. The goal of coaching is improved performance by self- realisation. Coaching promotes creativity, breakthrough performance and resilience, giving organisations a competitive edge and an effective way to flow and operate within an environment of continuous change. In the Nigerian workplace the term training is more popular, but it has been discovered that without coaching, training loses its effectiveness, training fails to achieve the lasting behavioural change that coaching brings about, this is because training is an event while coaching is a process. Coaching is the valuable next step to training to insure that the new knowledge imparted, actually becomes learned behavior.
Coaching takes a holistic view of the individual: work, corporate values, personal needs and career development are made to work in synergy, not against one another.” – British Journal of Administrative Management
In conclusion the following are a few points to note:
Mentoring is a long-term process based on mutual trust and respect. Coaching, on the other hand, is for a short period of time.
Mentoring is more focused on creating an informal association between the mentor and mentee, whereas coaching follows a more structured and formal approach.
A workplace mentor has first-hand experience of the mentee’s line of work. A workplace coach, however, does not necessarily need to have a hands-on experience of the kind of work the coachee is engaged in.
The topmost priority of a business mentor is to help develop skills that are just relevant for the mentees in their present job. For a business coach, the biggest priority is to improve performance that impacts the present joband the employee’s behaviour for other future endeavours.
‘Gbeminiyi Obadan – Life and Executive coach
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