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Coaching Versus Mentoring – What’s The Difference?

November 29, 20222 min read

Are you confused about coaching? Questions about coaching are coming faster and more plentiful every year. This is one of the driving forces of the booming coaching industry. In the last ten years, membership in international coaching organizations has more than tripled. Estimates put the number of professional coach practitioners worldwide at more than 50,000 and growing. Last I looked it up in 2016, the annual revenue from coaching was estimated at $2.35 billion. And from my personal experience, the COVID lockdown had many people flocking to coaching training. 

With that said, like anything else, this is a supply-and-demand market. People would only be jumping to create the supply of coaches with the demand for it. In the case of executive coaching, which is my corner of the world, organizations and individuals are investing in coaching because it is a powerful form of personal development that leads to change and results. According to the latest studies, more than 85 percent of organizations saw a return on their coaching investment, and more than 90 percent of executives said they would repeat the process.

One of the more confusing topics I often talk to my clients about is the difference between a trainer, a coach, and a mentor. Even more, raising the level of confusion, there is an explosion of LinkedIn profiles with a wide range of job titles, such as Master TrainerLeadership MentorPerformance Coach, and so on. These roles work toward a similar goal but in different ways.

 So back to the question, what's the difference between training, coaching, and mentoring?

The role of a trainer is to directly impart knowledge or information to the learner, drawing on their specific expertise through instruction and explanation. For training to occur, it requires the trainer to have more detailed knowledge than the learner. The trainer must be an expert who knows 'the correct answer.' Therefore, the flow is one-way in a training scenario, passing from trainer to learner.

Mentors are often described as wise old owls, although I prefer to replace the word old with experienced! Mentoring is about guiding, advising, and helping the learner master a particular field that the mentor has already mastered. Therefore, it's a prerequisite for mentors to have specific experience and expertise themselves. Mentors, like trainers, have more of a directive approach to giving information and guidance. In a sentence, a mentor shares their knowledge, skills, and experience to help another develop and grow.

A coach is someone who specializes in helping to unlock the potential of others. A Coach accomplishes this by observing and measuring the clients' performance levels, setting them new goals, and providing motivational and developmental feedback. A coach utilizes much more of a questioning mode of operation, as opposed to the telling style adopted by trainers. So in a sentence, a coach guides clients on their goals and helps them reach their full potential. We often do this by asking questions, raising awareness, and reflection.

Jim Saliba

James is a 30+ year veteran in the Software and Technology industry. He shares with you his years of experience and winning ways to become a successful leader, while becoming 'unstuck' from the overwhelming challenges that hold us back from complete success.

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