On the difference between Mentoring and Coaching

Although the terms are used almost synonymously in many leadership formation environments, I see some important differences between them. These are outlined in the table below.

Mentor Coach
Focus On the individual as a whole person Usually on a specific leadership skill
Role Facilitating growth toward agreed objectives Imparting skills to develop specific capacities
Relationship Usually one to one with high trust level Often one to many respect for capacity of the coach
Process Listening, mutual discernment, reflection, empowering Imparting, training, correction, practice.


When might we use a coaching model in mentoring?

When a mentoree is operating with a relatively high level of ability but needs to acquire specific skills to deal more effectively with a life, leadership or ministry situation.

When the mentoree has given permission to be tough and has agreed to do the hard work of learning and embedding a new leadership skill.

How does coaching work?

Coaching moves through 3 stages.

1.  Recognition of deficiency and motivation to change.  This is the move from unconscious incompetence to conscious incompetence.  When we get to “I need to change and I know what I need to learn”.  We are ready to go.

2.  Identifying and learning the skill set.  This is breaking the skills down into learnable components.  Then they are practiced intentionally, usually in artificial environments till they are ready to be used.  This is the central shift from conscious incompetence to conscious competence.  Here we have explanation, modelling, training, practice, practice, fine tuning, practice and practice.

3.  Embedding the skill as a natural and normal part of leadership.  Once learnt, used and normalised the skill is embedded in the repertoire of leadership.  This is the final shift from conscious competence to unconscious competence.  We just do it, now without thinking!

In mentoring it is worth knowing how to coach and using this skill as it is needed in the equipping relationship.

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