A proven, exciting Retirement planning process for individuals and couples, The Best-Half is a combination of workshops, coaching and personal reflection. It was developed by experienced coaches and educators. For organizations, The Best-Half is a process to be used in succession management especially for transitions and to establish common goals and objectives in the senior phases of a career.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Are Coaches and Mentors the Same Thing?

We were recently asked by a prospective client “what was the difference between a mentor and a coach?” The relationship between a coach and a client is fundamentally different than that of mentor/mentee. The coach is responsible for performance while the mentor is focused on the individual. Mentors have a bias that is toward the individual. If the mentor didn’t like the mentee it’s likely the relationship would not flourish. A coach on the other hand is more impartial; focused on improvement and understanding. Coaches can certainly like their client – but mentoring usually begins with a friendship.

Have you ever had a mentor? I have just finished a rewarding experience as a mentor for a young woman in public relations. This mentoring relationship was through an organized program established by the Hamilton chapter of the Canadian Public Relations Society, to match mentors (experienced senior practitioners) and young practitioners embarking on a PR career. Some of the mentees were already starting their careers and others were just leaving school. I have been a mentor in the program for three years – with very different mentees. The process is always one of discovery for both mentor and mentee. In fact as part of the mentoring process I got a crash course in social media from a group of Gen Y mentees.

In my career I have had several mentors who have been extremely valuable in many ways. One helped to direct me toward a profession. Another helped to direct me away from same profession! (with a span of almost 15 years in between.) My mentors were always the unofficial kind, open to having a tea or a beer and helping to put things in perspective. Today I still have friends whom I would call mentors and I also have a coach with whom I meet virtually every two weeks.
“In Greek mythology, Mentor was the son of Alcumus and, in his old age, a friend of Odysseus. When Odysseus left for the Trojan War he placed Mentor in charge of his son, Telemachus, and of his palace. When Athena visited Telemachus she took the disguise of Mentor to hide herself from the suitors of Telemachus' mother Penelope. As Mentor, the goddess encourages Telemachus to stand up against the suitors and go abroad to find out what happened to his father.When Odysseus returns to Ithaca, Athena (in the form of Mentor) takes the form of a swallow and the suitors' arrows have no effect on him.” (wikipedia)
I love how the Mentor somehow is not affected by the suitors’ arrows. Mentors are protectors and nurturers while coaches are about soaring and reaching new heights. 
Do you have a mentor? Has your company or organization established a mentorship program? Engaging your people in an activity such as mentoring can offer many possibilities for both parties. Take the above example of social media. The pairing of a more senior executive with a newer recruit can expand to a valuable knowledge transfer of company history, relationships and information. Turning it around allows the more experienced executive to be mentored on the possibilities of new media within the organization. The real value of course is in the learning. The type of learning: organized, spontaneous, unexpected – doesn’t change the outcome of knowledge expansion that is both deeper and broader across the organization. Do you know someone who could benefit from a mentor with your knowledge? Offering your wisdom to a young leader reaps mutual benefit for both. Have you had someone who you have considered a mentor? If you have been lucky enough to have experienced this special relationship, a coaching opportunity would be: acknowledge their contribution to your success.


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