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Written by Friday, 19 December 2014 10:45

Coaching or mentoring what is the difference, and does it matter?

Here we explore and answer some often asked questions by business owners, around the topic of business coaching, mentoring, advice and consultancy. What is the difference, and which might I need?

Everyone needs some help – don’t they?

Running a growing business, leading the team, is a challenge that few (if any) can manage on their own. All leaders need support, whether that support be emotional, technical, financial, legislative, etc. Great business leaders know this, and are good at integrating individuals into cohesive high performance teams that deliver exceptional results. Small and medium sized growth businesses face similar challenges but with smaller budgets to their larger counterparts. They find it difficult to get the support they need on a temporary, or part time basis. So, this is the market space occupied by those businesses offering coaching, mentoring, business advice and consultancy.

Where to go for help – there are lots of options?

There are public sector bodies, private sector bodies, and various permutations and combinations of the two that occupy this market space. Some are exceptional in what they offer, and some are almost a criminal waste of your money and your time.

As in all personal services, the service received is very person dependent. Ensuring that you choose someone who you can work with is as important as their ability to help you. However make sure that they have a great track record, with relevance to your sector and to the challenge you are facing.

Or do I need a business adviser or a consultant – confused?

If you have a specific challenge or problem to solve, you may not be looking for a coach or mentor, you are most likely looking for a business adviser or consultant, who has the technical skills, knowledge and experience to overcome the identified hurdle.

So how do I find a mentor?

Most of us will meet potential mentors every day. Few such individuals introduce themselves as a mentor. Try to learn about what potential mentors do and have done. Start off suggesting informal exchanges, and see how the relationship develops. The table below will also help clarify what to look for, and how the relationship could be structured.

What makes a valuable mentor?

Valuable mentors are domain experts, who have relevant experience. Mentors do not know everything, markets change, and so do solutions to problems, so good mentors know this and are humble. They may have skin in the game, it has to be mutually beneficial. A budding entrepreneur is likely to have low credibility, another benefit of the mentor relationship is the credibility gained through association, this “halo effect” can help in getting started.

The table below draws on generally accepted differences between business mentoring and business coaching.

Business Mentoring

Business Coaching

Helps to shape an individual’s beliefs and values in a very positive way, often a longer term career relationship, from someone who has “done it before”

Helping another person improve awareness, to set and achieve goals, in order to improve a particular behaviour

An ongoing relationship generally lasting a long time

Can be of a shorter duration, generally task oriented, and focussed on specific development areas and issues

Can be informal, with meetings as and when required

More structured, regular and scheduled exchanges

The mentor is able to pass on relevant knowledge and experience, and to open up out-of-reach opportunities

The coach is not required to have specific detailed sector domain knowledge

Focusses on the individual, their career and personal development

Focusses on performance at work

The agenda is driven by the mentee, it can be an unstructured engagement

A structured agenda focussing on achieving specific goals

The mentee generally self-selects the mentor, it is power free and mutually beneficial

Coaching is job and performance focussed, with goals for each exchange

Benefits include affirmation and learning

Benefits include teamwork and performance improvements

The mentor should have a deep personal interest

The coach develops specific skills for the task, the challenge and with performance expectations

The mentor earns their reputation, it is not a job title

Coach is a job title

Managers (in a corporate setting) are indirectly involved, it is a long term development journey

Managers are directly involved, (in a corporate setting) it is a matter of performance


For further information go to:

www.nolimitscreative.co.uk for business support to help grow your business

www.partner-in-business.co.uk a partnership of business providers supporting growth businesses

www.heart-of-business.co.uk a network of mentors and practical experts who can help