Coaching or Mentorship or Both?

Written by: Ensign-M
Featured image by: Ensign-M

This past Friducation Presentation was, as Kal put it, “a bit of an organic experience”. He encapsulated a classroom learning environment and discussed the key differences between coaching and mentorship with the team, as a team. The goal of this presentation was to hear insights from team members on what we think the difference between the two are, as well as to understand how to leverage the use of coaches and mentors.

Kal kicked off this presentation by turning the focus to the team and taking a tally based on some general questions. How many of us have had a mentor or coach before? How many of us have or had multiple? How many of us would think we would benefit from either a mentor or coach? Currently, of the 23 team members in the meeting, 10 people have mentors, 5 people have coaches, 19 people think they could benefit from a mentor, and 18 people think they could benefit from a coach. The disconnect between who has coaches and mentors and those who wanted to benefit from either one of them was clear.

The next step Kal took in the conversation was to dig deeper and let the team answer 3 questions individually in order to come back and share our thoughts.

The questions we answered individually and reflected on as a team were:

  1. What do you believe is the difference between a mentor and a coach?
  2. In what areas would you want a coach?
  3. How do you think a mentor would benefit you?

Here is a summary of the key points some of the team members discussed:

      1. A mentor doesn’t tell you what to do but helps you become a better version of yourself. They help you with long-term goals through guidance and advice. They are not accountable for your success.

      • You don’t pay a mentor.
      • They are growth-focused.
      • It is primarily a personal relationship.
      • It tends to involve a philosophical approach i.e. the Mentor posits questions to consider.

      A coach gives you specific technical knowledge and skills to coach you to succeed in that area. They are accountable for your business success.

      • Coaches are paid.
      • They are performance-focused.
      • It is primarily a professional relationship.
      • It involves a methodical approach i.e. the Coach answers questions and directs behaviour.

      2. A mentor provides benefits through guidance and experience. As Sarah touched upon, a mentor will call you out on your bullshit and challenge ideas. By finding a mentor who shares similar values or goals, it allows you to look up to them and use their experience as a guide.

      3. A coach can be beneficial in areas such as breaking bad habits or behaviours. They would aid in communication, presenting, leadership, finance, and health/ fitness.

“Sometimes a mentor needs to talk to you for one or two minutes. And that one or two minutes is enough to steer you in the right direction. You don’t have to talk to that person for the next 6-12 months; whereas a coach you can count on to continuously engrain those habits for that specific skill set you want”.
– Kal

Talking about our collective thoughts helped Kal formulate even more questions such as: Why don’t we have coaches or mentors? Is it a financial problem? Or do we not know how to find these coaches or mentorship? The greatest athletes and business people have many coaches and mentors that led them to success. They take the accumulated wisdom from all these people’s experiences, so why don’t we?

Maybe we have them right in front of us but we don’t know how to take advantage of them. In addition to this, when we have mentors and coaches in our arsenal, how do we ask them the right questions in order to get what we need from them?

“Coaches give you answers, mentors give you more questions.” – Kal

Kal touched up on when he was in university, he’d go into philosophy lectures and come out more confused than before. This reminded me of a quote I read in Ego is the Enemy by theoretical physicist John Archibald Wheeler: “As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance.”

Even when talking to mentors, you aren’t supposed to feel comfortable when speaking with them. When you start to feel uncomfortable, vulnerable, or even discouraged, it is a signal that you are doing the right thing by reaching out and trying to find help.

Mentors don’t want you to agree with everything they say either. They will challenge you and your ideas to help make you come up with your own decisions. Through challenging you, they help you reach decisions, but will never tell you what to do.

“A goal of a mentor is to warn you of the enemies you might not see, to see the potential in you that you might not see, and to question your reality”. – Kal

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