While coaching and mentoring use many of the same skills, one is short term and task-based while the other promises a longer-term relationship.
Imagine the following scenario. The vice president of human resources has just finished an in-depth discussion with the director of engineering about high employee turnover for one of the engineering teams. The manager of that team has a command and control leadership style, like a drill sergeant. His style has created a lot of tension and poor performance results. The vice president of HR told the engineering director the drill sergeant manager needed to change his management style, and reminded him that executive leadership mandated all managers use mentoring and coaching skills. This manager needs to be more in tune with the company culture, and the engineering director agrees.
This scenario is common. There is confusion about mentoring and coaching skills. Part of the challenge is the terms are used interchangeably. Explaining the difference between mentoring and coaching with definitions and examples can help managers change their style, and holding informal meetings with the managers can benefit the entire organization. Introducing new skills is not easy. Employees will have questions and need practical information and examples on how to mentor and coach. Talent leaders will need a practical way to communicate the information.
In an article in the October issue of Strategy and Business magazine, authors Mark David Nevins and Stephen A. Stumpf state that talented human capital will be the prime ingredient of future business success. The article said one way current leaders can support future leaders is to commit to an organizational culture that values mentorship and coaching and includes constructive and timely feedback. Coaching is about strategizing ways to handle situations; mentoring is about providing guidance.
The two often operate together. For instance, leadership coaching can improve interpersonal communication style and decision making and as a result lead an employee to become more engaged and productive. The coach can offer the employee advice and guidance. The same employee also may receive suggestions from a mentor, who will act as a role model and help to manage a potential career change.
Despite some crossover, there is some difference between the two skills.