What is the difference between coaching and mentoring?

  • Ezra
  • January 9th, 2020

“Coach” and “mentor” might sound like similar terms, but they’re actually very different practices. In this article, we’ll go through the difference between coaching and mentoring, the methods used for each and why both can contribute to a positive work environment.

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What is the difference between coaching and mentoring?

Coaches and mentors both aim to support and develop an individual in the workplace, but the methods and approaches vary between the two. Mentors are usually able to help with industry-specific knowledge and connections, while coaches are better placed to help an employee develop skills, habits and behaviours that will help them improve their performance in their role and enable them to take on new challenges and responsibilities.

In general, mentors are:

  • Volunteers
  • Scheduling in mentorship sessions around their normal jobs
  • Working in the same or similar industries to the mentee
  • Sharing their own career experience and knowledge
  • Offering informal sessions scheduled based on availability
  • Able to provide networking opportunities, introducing mentee to others in the company or industry
  • Not able to offer measurable improvement to performance

In contrast, coaches are:

  • Paid professionals
  • Trained and dedicated to serving their clients
  • Not working in the same industry as the client
  • Sharing strategies to change behaviour and develop skills and confidence
  • Offering more formal, structured sessions scheduled regularly at times that suit the client
  • Not likely to offer networking opportunities outside of one-to-one sessions
  • Able to offer measurable improvement to performance

The importance of coaching employees

Mentoring has many benefits, but it also has some limits. While effective mentors can be invaluable sources of industry-specific information and contacts that can help to accelerate an individual’s career path, there are often many demands on their time and it may be impractical to schedule frequent meetings.

Coaches are in a much better position to dedicate time, attention and energy to regular, structured sessions which give the employee measurable improvements – helping them to stay motivated and engaged in their current role.

As highly-specialised professionals, coaches can help individuals to realise their potential by offering support and guidance, and facilitating self-reflection. Coaches are trained to ‘hold the space’ for clients, offering a supportive and empathetic environment to explore current thinking patterns and beliefs. Coaching employees to improve performance generally involves first allowing the individual to understand performance issues, create an improvement plan and learn new skills that will allow them to carry it out.

Methods of coaching employees

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There are many different methods of mentoring and coaching in the workplace. Some companies ask managers to incorporate coaching and mentoring employees into their roles, perhaps during one-to-one catch ups or as part of yearly appraisals. The effectiveness of this method is largely dependent on the relationship between the manager and employee, the manager’s own ability to coach, and the time that they can dedicate to it on top of their own role. It can also be influenced by the power dynamic that naturally exists between a manager and a direct report.

Demanding schedules and a lack of training can mean that managers find they aren’t able to provide the high-quality coaching that their employees need in order to reach their potential. For this reason, companies are increasingly choosing to bring in external coaches to work with their employees. Effective coaching can be delivered through in-person sessions or remotely, via video calls. Remote coaching helps to keep costs low and save time by eliminating the need to travel.

During a session, a coach will work with the individual to enable them to better understand themselves, their thought patterns and their behaviours, and move towards changes that will help to improve their performance at work. Coaches can help individuals to identify and set goals, track progress, and solve any problems that arise along the way.

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Powered by Lee Hecht Harrison, Ezra has over 2,000 highly-qualified, world-class coaches, all with extensive certification and over 10 years of experience.

Benefits of Ezra’s coaching app

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Ezra makes every step of the coaching process simple. We do all the hard work for you – all you need to do is select the coaches from our database that will work best with your people, then let us know the individuals that you’d like to benefit from coaching. We’ll set it all up for you.

For your employees, everything happens in the app. There’s no admin or time-consuming emails to contend with – once they’ve matched with a coach that they connect with, they can easily book their sessions at a time that suits them. All our coaching happens remotely, so your employees can complete sessions whenever and wherever suits them – whether that’s a quiet meeting room at the office or on the sofa in their living room.

Get in touch with Ezra for a free demo for expert employee coaching software

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