Do I need a coach, or a mentor?

At the beginning of my coaching sessions I always start by explaining what coaching is… and what coaching isn’t. Over the years I’ve developed my own explanation of how coaching is different to other interventions, but this graphic – recently developed by ICF Victoria Branch – is a great visual tool that I’ve started using to help explain the difference to my clients.

Many people confuse mentoring with coaching (even some coaches!), but in essence it’s about who holds the expertise, or wisdom.

When you are a mentee, you generally choose a mentor based on their experience or knowledge. Maybe someone who holds (or has held) a role that you aspire to, or who you hold in high regard because of the leadership qualities they display. As the mentee you will probably seek advice from them and you will want them to advise you because in a mentor-mentee relationship the MENTOR HOLDS THE WISDOM.

When you engage a coach, their job is to bring out your full potential. A good coach will bring out insights from your inner-self that you weren’t aware of. They will approach coaching sessions knowing that the clarity you need (or the solutions) are already within you – deep listening, presence and powerful questioning are the tools they use. A real coach  won’t advise you, because in a coach-coachee relationship the COACHEE HOLDS THE WISDOM.

When I coach on Leadership Development programs, there will almost certainly be a coaching session devoted to identifying the qualities that a suitable mentor might possess. That’s because mentoring and coaching go hand-in-hand, but it’s important to understand the difference before you embark on either relationship.