Coaching and mentoring are terms that get used interchangeably very often, with people and even professionals getting confused about the basic differences between the two. As an executive life coach, I at times get referred to as a mentor as well.
In this article, I will try and explain the basic nuances of both approaches and their basic differences, i.e. life coach vs. mentor.
The main difference between a life coach and a mentor is the end state desired. In mentoring usually the end state is to do with the learning of a particular skill, or a way of handling a situation.
In executive life coaching the desired end state is usually aimed at empowering the coachee by altering patterns of thinking, thus ensuring the coachee can handle personal challenges in an autonomous mode without any external assistance post the coaching intervention.
The conduct of a mentor is like that of a guide or advisor. Mentoring involves sharing personal experiences wherein the mentor will aim at inspiring the mentee in following a certain path or ways of handling challenges based on lessons drawn from the mentor’s life experiences.
A life coach on the other hand uses scientific approaches to help the coachee understand their current situation, delve deep into their inner realisation, expand their self-awareness, and touch upon their sense of purpose.
Coaching involves a fair amount of smart probing, to elicit responses that get the coachee thinking about what needs to be done or changed to enable them to be more effective individuals and lead fulfilling lives.
Mentoring is particularly very effective in areas that need a mentee to learn a technical skill or a domain-related project needing specialised skill sets or guidance on handling professional challenges in technical areas of expertise.
Life coaching on the other hand is very effective in helping coachees undergo deep transformations, which have a lifelong impact and leave a desire to improve, learn, overcome challenges and face realities of life with a sense of personal conviction and confidence.
While a mentor is necessarily someone with seniority and a greater level of professional experience in the mentee’s area of expertise or technical domain, a life coach need not have any exposure to or be senior to the coachee as approaches used in executive life coaching are independent of the coach’s personal experiences and professional areas of expertise.
Usually, mentoring interactions are free-flowing, with an air of informality to create an environment wherein the mentee doesn’t get overawed by the presence of the mentor in any way.
The discussion then proceeds towards an area of discussion which the mentor and mentee find fruitful.
In executive life coaching, developmental conversations are a bit more structured and involve smart probing, active listening, and empathetic consideration.
The life coach would not allow personal projection in these conversations to ensure that the coachee thinks independently and can come up with introspective responses which need a deeper level of awareness and understanding of self.
While the coach might use examples from their personal life, to give clarity or in sharing of context, they would completely refrain from getting into advisory mode.
A life coach can empower a coachee through a wide range of challenges. It doesn’t matter whether they have experienced it themselves or not.
Life coaching can be seen as a guided exploration of the deeper self for the coachee wherein the coach plays the role of a facilitator while the coachee is the main protagonist and their ego, fixed mindset the antagonist.
In mentoring, discussions could be straightforward, to the point, and focussed as these revolve around specific technical areas.
Coaching conversations, on the other hand, tend to be indirect, at times lengthy, and long winding as the coachee explores different options, realities, and comes to a realisation of factors hindering their progress and steps needed to surmount them.
In many ways, to sum up, mentoring can be seen as a source of direct wisdom, a transfer of skill and knowledge, whereas life coaching is a source of derived wisdom, through the unlocking of the coachee’s inner potential and sense of purpose.
To conclude, in the end, both mentoring and executive life coaching are aimed at development, performance enhancement, and improved personal effectiveness. Both are distinctly different and need to be applied in their appropriate context by practitioners and industry experts.
A word from Life Coach, Percy Vaid
To help you see the potential for transformation in your life, I invite you to join me for a 1-hour coaching session.
No catch: This is not a teaser session. I will commit my 1-hour session with you to explore all aspects of your life.
Bring the topic. There is no limit to what we can discuss in our work and personal lives. Coaching is my forte. I won’t hide anything and will not hold back. We’ll have a life-changing, unforgettable conversation together. Book your appointment here.