What is the difference between a coach and a mentor in the workplace? Both play very important roles in helping organizations and their members achieve their short term and long-term goals. These roles may overlap at times, or they may even exist in a hybrid form, but they are not the same thing Whether you implement one or both, these relationships can be a great win/win for everyone involved.
Mentors help new members of an organization become oriented within their new environment. They are perceived as leaders within the organization and enjoy helping a new individual become familiar with and settled into a new routine. Mentors also help to facilitate connecting new members of an organization with new colleagues. They assist mentees as they “learn the ropes.” The mentor relationship addresses both the short-term and the long-term. Mentors have a successful track record within the organization, but may not always work in the exact field as the new mentee. Typically, they are available on an ongoing basis.2 Mentors may work in an independent role, or within a group format.
Coaches, on the other hand, help leaders confidently manage critical and immediate issues. Coaches often have expertise in similar professional fields. Ideally, they have specific qualifications including certification or even counseling experience, and also possess excellent organizational and management skills. They are strategic thinkers and enjoy problem solving. These qualities make them proactive in nature. A good coach will inspire and motivate. Coaching relationships may be shorter in duration than a mentoring relationship, depending upon the task at hand. Coaching can be extremely helpful to the newer junior employee as research suggests that the first three years in the workforce have an important influence on self-confidence and employee development.4
Sometimes the mentoring and coaching roles can overlap and develop into a kind of hybrid model in which the roles flex between coaching and mentoring, depending upon the circumstances.3
To summarize, a mentor may be the ideal resource to offer the new hire a broader perspective of an organization. This model is often best when an individual comes into a new organization and needs to learn how an organization works, overall. However, as things become more focused, with specific areas to be addressed, then a coaching relationship can be very helpful. A successful coaching partnership can result in a variety of short-term and long-term outcomes, for both the senior executive and the junior employee.
Both mentoring and coaching are important for different reasons. Having the correct individuals in place will help you and your organization achieve desired goals, and proactively offset trouble spots along the way.
Please contact us directly if you would like further assistance with establishing a mentorship program, or to discuss leadership coaching as an option for yourself or members within your organization.