The Difference Between a Coach and a Mentor – by Colleen Qvist
Coach and Mentor are two words that are used interchangeably with all parties thinking they have the same understanding of a Coach and a Mentor.
Both a Coach and a Mentor work with a person to help them move forward towards their goals and ultimately to achieve those goals. They can play a part in the person setting that goal and they hold the person accountable for the steps to the goal. The person may be called a coachee or mentee or client.
Let’s look at the difference between a Coach and Mentor by way of a very simplified example.
John sits glued to the TV watching the Comrades Marathon and decides that he should be out there running the marathon the following year. He decides that instead of him doing this on his own that he will call in professional help.
What are his options? He can contact a Life Coach or a Mentor.
Option 1: John finds a Life Coach
A Life Coach would sit with John and ask questions and listen as to why he wants to run Comrades. The Coach and John will unpack John’s WHY.
Then the Coach will ask John what he thinks needs to be done to prepare to run the Comrades.
John will list a whole lot of things like training, joining a running club, other exercises, diet, etc and the Coach may ask questions about family support, how training will fit in with John’s other obligations etc. Together they will come up with an entire plan, but the Coach will rely on John to go and do the research on all the aspects.
As time goes on, the Coach will encourage John and will ask how the eating plan is working out or John will send the Coach a picture of himself finishing a 42km marathon. The Coach will work closely with John to see that John’s mindset is right and that he doesn’t give up.
The Coach will be just as excited as John when John completes Comrades.
The frequency and type of coaching sessions will be decided by the Coach and John at the beginning of coaching. The Coach will also advise John of the cost of each session and the consequences of not pitching for a session.
Option 2: John finds a mentor
John decides that he would like a mentor to help him achieve his Comrades goal. This means that John needs to identify someone who has the experience and who has done the Comrades. He could single out someone who has run the Comrades or who has done five races and finished in 10 hours. It all depends on what John decides would meet his mentor needs.
Of course, John cannot just phone someone up and say, “Hey, you should mentor me.”
Does the potential mentor want to mentor John? What is in it for the mentor? There has to be an exchange of value between the mentor and John for it to be worthwhile for both of them. This value may be money, but it doesn’t have to be.
John also needs to be specific about what he wants the mentor to mentor him about. He may only want to know how to approach his training as a vegetarian and not need any help about any other aspect like shoes, blisters, training schedule or mindset. In this particular case, the mentor needs to be a vegetarian who has run the Comrades. John can have more than one mentor.
The big difference is that the Mentor will help John because the Mentor has the experience and that experience is what the Mentor will share. Of course, Mentors know that it is not a case of copy and paste. Just because the Mentor wore a specific brand of shoes, doesn’t mean that John has to do the same thing. They will work out what is best for John but start from the base of the Mentor’s experience.
Both the Coach and the Mentor will be able to assist John to reach the finish line. The big difference is that the Mentor will have run Comrades and the Coach not.
Both Coach and Mentor are professional people, both receive value whether monetary or other and both grow personally from coaching or mentoring and both will celebrate when John completes the Comrades.
Where these terms have been muddled is we now talk about a manager who coaches or mentors as part of their job title. The manager may have had no training at all about how to coach or mentor or even want to. People have also been confused about a mentor being paid to mentor because often an older person at work who has done the job mentors a younger person. People tend to think that mentoring is unpaid, but the company is paying the person for hours anyway as salary. The days of a mentor being older have also gone. Depending on what you would like mentoring or coaching on, the ideal match may be a person younger than you.
John may already belong to a running club and be a runner and he chats to the crowd who do Comrades every year and tells them that he is joining their ranks. They could offer to mentor him. John could also go and see a Life Coach because he wants this and he knows that he needs to ensure his mindset is right and that he can successfully juggle all his commitments.
If you decide on a Coach or Mentor or even both, do know that the chances of you achieving your goal are increased. Please choose your Coach and or Mentor wisely.