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Coaching vs. Mentoring: What’s the Diff?

In light of the pre-launch of my new training and coaching program, Marketing Mentors, I wanted to define and distinguish between coaching and mentoring.

Most people don’t readily acknowledge that there is a difference between the two.

For one, mentoring requires some level of “been there, done that” in order to be effective. in essence, the mentor comes alongside the mentee, to help them navigate the rough waters of their situation, and steer them to safer waters, generally based on their past experiences.

For example, if you wanted to learn how to jet ski, your brother-in-law who’s been doing it for years, could mentor you, and show you how to jump the waves just like he does.

In business, if you wanted to increase sales using a particular technique, you would find someone well-versed in that technique and have them teach/train/mentor you in mastering that technique.

Mentoring is specific to the task at hand. If you don’t have an area of experience related to the task at hand, you cannot mentor someone.

You could, however, coach them.

In fact, you may often find that coaches have very little practical experience in the specifi situations you face in your business. But a good coach doesn’t need to, because they are not mentoring you. They are not showing you a step-by-step, “this is how I did it” process.

In fact, it’s kind of the opposite. Coaches, work with you to help YOU develop your OWN process.

For example, I’ve never had the experience of personally dealing with the voice change that men endure when puberty converts those pure, pristing little boy voices into deep, brooding, “manly man” voices.

But as a vocal coach, I work with men who struggle with “smoothing out” the transition from different registers in their vocal range. There are specific techniques and exercises I can offer, have the man try, and they experience for themselves the benefits.

In addition, mentoring assumes a small layer of responsibility, whereas in coaching, the responsibility for growth and progress lies almost entirely in the hands of the person being coached.

A Mentor may say “try this, it worked for me”. A coach will say “what do you think would work for you? Have you thought about this?”

While the words sound similar, they have entrely different meanings and semantics.

One of the things I pride myself on is the fact that I rarely recommend something if I haven’t found success with it myself. If I can make it work, and be successful with it, I readily recommend it to my own team, as well as my clients and customers.

That holds true whether I’m working with Direct Sellers or if I’m selling a skin cream. I try to be authentic in my dealings, and let people know honestly what my reactions and successes/failures have been so that they can gauge their own personal level of potential success.

In it’s purest form, those recommendations are a type of mentoring. So if I make a suggestion and it doesn’t work, a mentee can come back to me and say “that didn’t work. now what?”

That leaves me on the hook for a lot of potential blame, if I’m not choosing my words carefully and coaching my clients along the way.

A blanket recommendation rarely works for everyone – because we are not a one-size-fits-all society. We are different people with different needs and abilities.

Thus, for me, my mentoring always comes along with a healthy dose of coaching.

Asking powerful questions, seeking answers based on the specific needs of the client, but allowing the input to be driven entirely by the client is what coaching is all about.

For example, a client told me that she wasn’t getting any shows on her calendar.

Instead of giving her a run down of “try this, try that” I begin with questions:
* do you know your show booking average?
* Do you know your show attendance average?
* Do you know your RSVP rate?
* What’s your cancellation rate?

Notice I didn’t say “how many people did you talk to today?” In business, when a company is stuck in a rut, sometimes it’s more helpful to see the bigger picture (trends) than it is to focus on what’s not working right now.

Interestingly enough, most consultants don’t even know these basic business details.

So instead of showing them how to get more bookings, we look at how failing to know their business is a bigger problem that needs to be addressed.

And funny enough, when they start looking at those numbers, they start to see the answers:

“well, I’m only seeing 4 people at my average show. i guess I need to make sure my hostess gets those invitations out.”

“People aren’t RSVP’ing like they should. I guess maybe I should review the script with my hostess so she knows what to say when calling to confirm attendnce.”

That, my friends is coaching. Like a birthing coach, I can’t have the baby for you – or tell you how to do it right. I can only help you along, guide, you and keep you focused on the actions you already know are within you that need to happen to bring that baby out!

But coaching COMBINED with mentoring not only gives the coach more credibility, it also lends more empathy on the part of the coach.

When you’re struggling with the same issues your mentor endured, the mentor can “totally relate to what you’re going through.” They can empathize with your frustration, and help you to see what the other side of that mountain looks like – because they have already crossed over – and you can, too!

It’s a unique blend that I think strengthens the client relationship in a way that adds remarkable value, without placing the onus on the coach. Ultimately the responsibility for success lies firmly in the hands of the coaching client, and the empathy a mentor/coach might have for a specific situation can work to augment the coachign relationship and sometimes speed up the process that leads to success.

Rich rewards await those that work with either a coach or a mentor, and having both can be a blessing.