When you go to dinner with a doctor, the conversation by somebody invariably turns to this ailment after that… Similarly, everyone has a legal woe or two to discuss with a lawyer. But when a business coach comes to dinner the debate often rages around whether one needs a coach when a mentor would do. It’s a perennial challenge and a myth I often take my time to dispel.

The reason so many people raise this question is that they don’t appreciate the differences between mentorship and business coaching. So let’s dive in and tackle that first.

The challenge with mentorship is that it’s usually a one-sided win, and generally one-sided wins aren’t sustainable. Yes, the mentor gets to feel that he or she is making a difference in someone’s life, but if another priority comes up in their world they would normally prioritise that over having a meeting or giving feedback to a mentee. That’s understandable because the mentee doesn’t sit right at the top the mentor’s ‘to do’ list.

Conversely, coaching is a win-win relationship. The coach is being paid to have a vested interest in the success of the client. An effective business coach also gets the joy and satisfaction of seeing the impact they are making on the business and the individual in question and will be assured of great word-of-mouth marketing when that client’s bottom line starts to swell and they start to truly live their 100% life.

Unlike a mentor, when a business coach is faced with a personal obligation versus a client’s call for help and guidance, they will find a way to prioritise both. Coaches are paid to put the client front and centre, and that’s the critical difference between mentors and coaches.

Despite this, many people still question the role of coaching; which is ironic since human beings have been playing with the notion of coaching since around the mid-1800s, with the idea of business coaching growing in popularity since the 1990s. It is by no means a new concept, and yet there are many who still view coaching with a sceptical eye. I always find this amusing given the massive coaching successes we are witness to on a day-to-day basis in the world of sporting achievement. Coaching a swimmer, or a golfer or a football player is a clear win-win because the coach gets paid and the sports person gets the benefit of the coach’s knowledge and experience.

Critically, a coach helps you to articulate your goals and then holds you to account until you achieve success.

In an ideal world, of course, every business person should have both a mentor and a business coach. It’s terrific to have a mentor from whom you can learn and, if your mentor works in the same space and industry as you, who can open doors, share their network and guide you through important decisions. This creates a palpable energy which certainly drives the mentee forward.

But it’s also good to have a coach standing on the side lines, watching what is happening in your business. This process of diligent observation enables the coach to identify the blind spots which you can’t or won’t see. And, yes, a coach can also open up networks and help to propel you to the next level.

That’s why you should have both. It’s about increasing your probability of success.


Join the discussion One Comment

  • Amos Chikonde says:

    Another difference I have noted is that mentorship is about the mentee seeing the world through the eyes of the mentor in other words the mentee will end up mirroring the mentor where as coaching helps the coached to become independent and rich full potential on their own with the coach providing guidelines.

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