Which to Choose: Mentoring or Coaching?


Which to Choose: Mentoring or Coaching?

By Stephanie Clergé, ACC

Image courtesy of mrpuen at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Often prospective clients ask:  How will a coaching engagement differ from a mentoring relationship?  I love this question because it speaks to why I became a coach and continue to believe in the extraordinary power of coaching.

As someone who has seemingly always been a mentor to others, I strongly believe in the advantages of mentoring.  Similarly, as a mentee, I have greatly benefitted from the wise council of mentors throughout my life.  But after nearly 10 years of mentoring within my company, I begin to notice that some of my mentees were not taking my advice.  I found this odd because my mentees were junior to me, in experience, job role, and subject matter.  And not to toot my own horn, but I also thought I was giving pretty good advice!

Now that I am an ICF credentialed coach, I appreciate the difference between coaching and mentoring and why some of my mentees did not follow the advice I gave.  The primary source of mentoring support is from the mentor’s own perspective or experience; in short, what worked for the mentor in the past.  This can be very helpful when trying to navigate specific terrain, but can fall short when the mentee’s past or present experience, work styles, strengths, and beliefs are very different from those of the mentor.  In contrast, coaches may be similar to their clients in many ways, but the primary method of coaching is not the coach’s own viewpoint.  Instead, it uses the experience and resources of the client to achieve long-term results.

There are many other differences between coaching and mentoring — such as the strong commitments that both coach and client make to the engagement, often including observable outcomes.  There are compelling motives for choosing either coaching or mentoring, and achieving your desired outcome results from making an informed choice.

Coaching Tip: Mentoring is helpful when you find a role model whose personality or path you want to emulate.  Coaching, on the other hand, is useful when you want to make a personal transformation or change and desire some guidance in reaching your goal(s).


About the Author

Stephanie ClergeStephanie Clergé, ACC, is a Leadership Development Coach at a Fortune 500 technology company and also lends her coaching and workshop facilitation skills to local nonprofit organizations. She uses a powerful combination of traditional coaching techniques and strengths-based tools to support her clients as they realize their goals.