In many organisations and to many employees’ minds, the terms coaching and mentoring are used interchangeably. However these two activities are not the same nor are they related to other organisational activities such as counselling, supervision or training. While coaching and mentoring may both promote personal as well as professional growth, mentoring usually involves an ongoing professional relationship within the same organisation whereas coaching is focussed on specific performance issues or events and may be delivered by coaches external to the organisation. Mentors are often senior role models and the mentoring relationship is based on the sharing of knowledge and professional experience to deepen understanding and improve effectiveness. The relationship is hierarchical and sometimes paternalistic, rather than collaborative. The mentor has extensive skills and experience to share with the mentee, who is the recipient of this wisdom. Mentors can coach but coaches do not normally mentor.
Coaching is differentiated from mentoring in many ways. Coaching is a collaborative relationship based on equalised power. Coaches bring skills of active and reflective listening, powerful questioning and summarising to the table; clients bring knowledge of their own situation and issues. No one is right or wrong. Coach and client work together to achieve an outcome that promotes the client’s wellbeing and productivity. The coaching conversation is focused on expanding the client’s awareness of self and others, encouraging insight and discovery, and taking actions for which the client is responsible and accountable. Coaches assist clients to discover what they really want and need in life and work. They explore with clients the “unexplored” – the world of possibilities. During this process clients discover their true self, what motivates them, what causes them conflict and concern. Coaches works with clients to envision their best possible future, then goal set and action plan with them to achieve the desired outcomes, revisiting their goals throughout the process. Coaching is also about provoking action to address specific issues such as interpersonal and communication difficulties, stress-related anxiety and conflicting priorities. Coaching is used by organisations to extend knowledge, achieve specified goals and develop opportunities for all employees.