Many people use the words “coach” and “mentor” synonymously. The fact is there’s a clear distinction between them. In my book, Coaching Salespeople into Sales Champions, here’s how I differentiated between the two.
An expert on people and personal development. Typically a skilled specialist regarding a certain topic, competency, or industry. A coach’s role is to provide structure, foundation, and support so people can begin to self-generate the results they want on their own. Coaching is a process of inquiry, relying on the use on well crafted questions, rather than continually sharing the answer to get people to sharpen their own problem solving skills. Learning and growth are achieved by both parties involved. In coaching, the relationship is objective, and the focus is not only on what the person needs to do to become more successful but also who the person is and how he thinks. A coach works on the whole person and is multidimensional, rather than focusing only on what the person is already doing. The coaching relationship is built on choice rather than necessity.
An expert in a field, industry, or at a company who typically acts as an internal advisor. Usually this is done on a professional level to advance the mentored person’s career. Often mentors have their own approach already in mind and use the system that has worked for them in the past, without taking into consideration the style, values, integrity, or strengths of the people they mentor. As such, the mentor offers more solutions and answers to the person they mentor, rather than questions that challenge people to change their thinking and behavior; making this more of a one way, training-driven vs. collaborative (coaching) relationship. Mentors may also have something to gain professionally and, as such, have their own personal agenda. Often, mentors are not trained, and their guidance is based more on their experience rather than the skills or proficiencies needed to mentor. Often, the mentoring relationship is need-driven rather than driven by choice.