I suspect that each of us can fondly remember our best coaches and mentors.
Why? Because they have shaped our lives and influenced the development of our personality.
We may not have recognized that at the time, but with hindsight it is easy to look back and recollect them.
But are coaches and mentors the same thing?
Although the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, mentoring and coaching are two very different experiences.
The result of both coaching and mentoring is success and personal growth. However, each takes a different path towards the ultimate goal.
The benefits of having a mentor
Sharing is something we are usually taught as children, to share our toys, and our sweets are often our first lessons in sharing. Research suggests that most people are not selfish when it comes to the proliferation of knowledge, we are genuinely happy to share.
A mentor is someone who shares and often has a personal, emotional stake in the outcome of a certain situation, being biased in your favour. Mentoring does not usually produce short-term results, rather it lays the groundwork and plants the seeds of growth.
It’s no secret that humans use emotional tags to process information and develop behaviour.
Mentoring is a lasting arrangement that shapes much more than a career. It validates you as a person because a mentor’s job is to nurture and help you discover and develop yourself.
You can draw strength from a mentoring relationship, and many of us have a wide range of formal and informal mentors in our lifetimes.
A mentor’s influence will always depend on the strength of your relationship.
Given that human interactions and emotions are unpredictable, the volatility of this arrangement is a double-edged sword. A disagreement between the two parties can destroy your professional gains, given that the entire structure is built on admiration.
Mentoring can be done at a conscious or unconscious level. It is often a profound, long-lasting experience that is mutually beneficial for both parties.
The benefits of having a coach
On the flip side of the coin, we have coaches. Of course, each person’s approach is different, yet there are certain commonalities.
In contrast to the warm, nurturing, mentor, a coach is someone that is expected to be there doing a job, just like a sports coach, to bring out the result you desire.
Coaches must be pragmatic, performance-driven and logical. They must shun the broader, long-term approach of mentoring.
You could say coaches represent the boot camp of life: you may not like it, but they can teach you skills that can turn your life around fairly quickly. If you are in such a position, affection and respect are optional.
Coaching is a business relationship, where money changes hands, and a result is expected.
Coaching is usually a formula approach to self-improvement, with more predictable, consistent results. If you are going through one of the life’s rough patches and you want to resolve your issues as soon as possible, a coach is what you need.
A coach is a person to call if you need a performance boost, short-term results or some tough love. A mentor is more of a life guide, with a genuine interest in each person they choose to mentor as there is normally no financial exchange taking place. There are definite benefits for both parties, but these are generally personal satisfaction and at the pay it forward level of making the world a better place.
In my opinion, you can be a coach without caring (although good coaches always care!), but you can never be a mentor unless you do care.
In addition, the results of mentoring are less consistent than when working with a dedicated coach. That said, mentoring relationships tend to be more fulfilling and often turn into lasting friendships even when the mentoring days are long finished.
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