A question I hear every so often is “What is the difference between a mentor and a coach?”

It’s a good question, with a bit of a blurred line answer as they are similar in some ways, particularly as far as professional development goes, but they are also quite different.

Let’s begin by looking at the actual definition of the two according to the International Coaching Federation.

Mentoring: A mentor is an expert who provides wisdom and guidance based on his or her own experience. Mentoring may include advising, counselling and coaching.

The coaching process does not include advising or counselling, and focuses instead on individuals or groups setting and reaching their own objectives.

So in a nutshell, a coach will facilitate the client in reaching their own solutions and action plans, without giving actually advice or suggested course of action. A mentor on the other hand will share their knowledge and experience, in an advisory type role.

You may find a business mentor will offer both services and coach when it is required. Especially if they are qualified in coaching (as I am).

So when it comes to choosing a mentor or a coach, how do you decide?

Well, it comes down to your needs. Here’s a few suggestions:

Are you dealing with something specific that you need support with?

A business coach may be what you need. Coaching can be great to overcome fear of public speaking for example, or putting together great presentations, but once the skill is learned, the job is done.

Coaching is about getting some help to deal with performance in some area.

Are you looking for a long term relationship with someone who can share their knowledge and guide you in the right direction?

Then you’re looking for a business mentor. The relationship is usually lasts much longer than with a business coach (I’m generalising, so there will be exceptions).

Mentoring is much more about the bigger picture of your overall growth and development.

I know with mentors I have had over the years my relationship with them has waxed and waned as my need for support changed. There have been times that I’ve met with them once a month religiously, and then there are periods of time that I might touch base just a couple of times a year. This doesn’t work so well with coaching which usually requires a much more structured timetable to follow the progress of the issue that’s being addressed.

So in a nutshell, coaching is more performance driven with specific expected results in a particular area (such as a sales coach to help with sales performance), whereas a mentor is not so much focused on those specific goals, the focus is directed to sharing knowledge and experience to help the mentee grow and develop.

So which is best for you?

The truth is that it comes down to your needs. It is worth taking your time to think about what you need, the goals you want to reach. and who can best serve you.

For me, when I have a specific skill I want to address, I will find a specific coach to help me, recently it was a voice coach, hopefully Siri will understand me now!

Over the last twenty years I have pretty much always had a mentor, and been a mentor. I believe they are invaluable and I honestly wouldn’t be without them. I also urge any business owner who wants to grow and develop their business to get themselves at least one good mentor.

When I’m looking for a business mentor, I want someone who has walked the path I’m walking, and has the answers I’m looking for.

Someone who has the practical knowledge (and scars) from running a business.

They know what it’s like to be panicked when going through difficult times, and they have weathered the storms and succeeded. I’m not interested in paying someone who is well versed in theory and opinion, I want first hand experience. I want someone who is going to inspire me, show me what’s possible, and how I can get there.

How about you? What do you look for in a mentor or coach?

If you would like to know more about the combined mentoring and coaching program I have available https://pushbusinesstraining.com/scaleup/