Exploring career mentoring and coaching
Exploring career mentoring and coaching

This free course is available to start right now. Review the full course description and key learning outcomes and create an account and enrol if you want a free statement of participation.

Free course

Exploring career mentoring and coaching

2 Are mentoring and coaching different or the same?

Described image
Figure 3 Mentor and mentees

The differences and similarities between mentoring and coaching are extensively discussed in the academic literature and online, but this widely shared, unattributed quote seems to encapsulate the key difference neatly:

A coach has some great questions for your answers. A mentor has some great answers for your questions.

Activity 3 The same or different?

Allow about 5 minutes

From the list of words given below, choose the ones that you think best relate to mentoring and/or coaching. Type the words mentoring, coaching or both into the table.

Term Mentoring and/or coaching?
Fixed-term relationship
You can type text here, but this facility requires a free OU account. Sign in or register.
Ongoing relationship
You can type text here, but this facility requires a free OU account. Sign in or register.
Informal
You can type text here, but this facility requires a free OU account. Sign in or register.
Structured
You can type text here, but this facility requires a free OU account. Sign in or register.
Long term
You can type text here, but this facility requires a free OU account. Sign in or register.
Short term
You can type text here, but this facility requires a free OU account. Sign in or register.
Experience
You can type text here, but this facility requires a free OU account. Sign in or register.
Questions
You can type text here, but this facility requires a free OU account. Sign in or register.
Specific goals
You can type text here, but this facility requires a free OU account. Sign in or register.
Career development
You can type text here, but this facility requires a free OU account. Sign in or register.
 
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

Discussion

There are no consistently right or wrong answers to this question. For example, while a coaching relationship tends to have a fixed term and more structure than a mentoring one, that isn’t always the case. Some mentoring relationships will be informal and ad hoc, whereas others will have more structure, depending on the preferences and availability of the individuals involved. The debate will continue, with different professionals explaining coaching and mentoring in subtly different ways. Watch this video to see some views from practitioners.

Download this video clip.Video player: b867_2016e_vid013_640x360.mp4
Skip transcript

Transcript

TIM HAGGETT
I think there are three main differences between coaching and mentoring. The first difference is a mentor might actually give a piece of direct advice. So a coach would be looking to kind of tease an answer out of somebody by asking probing questions and guiding them towards a solution. Whereas a mentor might look at a situation and say, actually, I've experienced this before. I've got some direct, relevant advice which I can give to this person which might prove helpful. So I'll give that piece of direct advice, which a coach wouldn't have. And the second difference between a mentor and a coach is, I think a mentor has to be much more senior than the mentee. So whereas a coach, there might not actually be that much difference in terms of seniority or experience, between a mentor and a mentee, I would expect to see quite a big difference in seniority. And finally, I think a coaching relationship is always a one-to-one relationship. You might have meetings with the coach present, and the coachee present, and then more people, say, experts or enablers or, say, a working group. That wouldn't be part of the coaching programme. Where with a mentor, you might have something like a mentoring circle, where there are five or six people being mentored by the same person. And they come together as a group to share experiences and share the expertise.
MARIANO TUFRO
The difference between coaching and mentoring is that a mentor is a person that has a lot of experience to share with another individual. It doesn't necessarily have to be a more senior person of that individual. Actually, it's better if the mentor isn't on the direct line of management of that individual. But generally speaking, the mentor has been there, done that. And although the mentor will also use quite open-ended questions and listening, will also provide quite a bit of advice right during the session. Whereas a coach doesn't need to be an expert on the topic that the person is talking about. He's more focused on the process of uncovering knowledge. So coaches can actually know something about the topic the person is talking about. But a good coach wouldn't use that knowledge in the session, because that's not what they're there for.
ERICA LEVY
Coaching is very much about some facilitating development within the individual, almost unlocking their potential. And mentoring is very much more about providing specific specialist advice, for example, saying, this is how I managed a project. You could think about managing your project in a similar way. Or I use some of the techniques I've used. They're much more specific and much more guiding.
ALMUTH MCDOWALL
So what is the difference between coaching and mentoring? Both are used a lot in organisations, but I think there are some fundamental differences. Now, let's talk about coaching first. Coaching really is about facilitating other people to achieve their potential. And a lot of it is kind of gentle nudges, sort of gently pushing people into the right direction, but it's very much helping people to help themselves. Whereas with mentoring, there is a slightly more directive element, because it's also about imparting your own knowledge and expertise onto other people. Now interestingly, most of the mentoring we've seen in organisations, and most of the research that we've got on mentoring is downward mentoring, where you've got a more experienced mentor imparting their knowledge and skills onto a younger, less experienced mentee. Now, a real trend in organisations-- and research hasn't caught up yet-- is to look at upward mentoring, where you've got younger people within a team actually feeding up and mentoring upwards. Because, for instance, what you often see, they're a lot more technologically savvy, for instance, using social media to build networks, all the rest of it. So they've got knowledge that they can impart too. And I think, actually, that would be a really, really interesting area for future research.
End transcript
Copy this transcript to the clipboard
Print this transcript
 
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).
MC_1

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has nearly 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to university level study, find out more about the types of qualifications we offer, including our entry level Access courses and Certificates.

Not ready for University study then browse over 900 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus