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What's the difference between mentoring and coaching?
What is mentoring?
What results can my organization expect from a mentoring program?
Can a person's manager be their mentor?
How does the mentoring process work?
How can mentoring support diversity and inclusion initiatives?
How do you match mentors with mentees?
What's the first step in implementing a mentoring process?
How can mentoring be automated for a large or dispersed organization?
What is coaching?
Why hire a professional coach?
How can coaching benefit my organization or me?
How does the coaching process work?
What makes for a good coach?
What is the nature of the coaching relationship?
Is the coaching process confidential?


What's the difference between mentoring and coaching?

In a nutshell, it's the relationship. A coach works with an individual to achieve finite objectives in a defined timeframe. When an external, professional coach is hired to work with an individual, specific goals and measurable outcomes are immediately identified. The focus is about behaviors, performance and change. Formal assessments and feedback are typically included to identify key performance drivers and areas for development. In a mentoring relationship, a mentor is concerned about an individual's career satisfaction and success beyond specific objectives. Also, the mentor/mentee pairing is typically a more lasting relationship developed by individuals within an organization.

When organizations implement a formal mentoring process they tap into internal talent to form partnerships that assist with professional development. In a mentoring relationship, mentors focus on overall development while coaches generally focus on performance issues and behavioral change.

A mentor is an individual with the skills, knowledge, expertise or experience in a given area, who is willing and able to share this information with another individual. The role of the mentor is to help sponsor and guide an individual's development. Listening, communication and coaching skills are all vital in the role of the mentor. This criteria has nothing to do with age, gender, job grade level or seniority.

Coaching is a skill and one form of development that a mentor may employ to ensure that an individual's learning meets his or her objectives. One-on-one training or job shadowing, where one individual instructs and demonstrates a skill, is another learning method. The mentor employs these and other approaches to achieve objectives, but in the context of a broader relationship. A mentor is concerned about an individual's career satisfaction and success beyond meeting specific objectives. Coaching is a shorter, more focused process that concentrates on interpersonal effectiveness and tactical skills with the ultimate goal of behavioral change (e.g., run better meetings, more effectively motivate employees, etc.).

An external coach, on the other hand, guides an individual towards a better understanding of how they are perceived within the organization and how they can be more effective. This is typically a six- to 12-month process. At The Mentor Group, we begin the coaching process with an assessment profile-Leaderview®. It is a profile of executive impact and provides the foundation for development planning.

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What is mentoring?

A mentor is an individual with the experience, knowledge and skills who is willing and able to share this information with another individual. A mentee is an individual who is seeking particular knowledge, skills or experience in a specific area and who looks to another individual to advance his or her learning. The relationship these individuals undertake for the transfer of teaching, training and knowledge is known as mentoring. A formal mentoring program provides structure and guidance for individuals to be successful. It helps leaders broaden functional experience, clarify performance goals and develop strategies to address job-related challenges.

Traditionally the term "mentor" or "mentoring" was associated with "upward" mobility and career advancement. Historically, individuals thought mentoring just sort of "happened" and having a mentor was vital for many individuals if they desired to advance to the most senior levels within an organization. Many times, an individual's mentor was that special "sounding board" or "confident" that an individual went to for those issues that he/she didn't feel could be discussed with his/her manager or anyone with whom there was a reporting relationship.

The new focus of "mentoring" within an organization is with an emphasis on positioning such an initiative as part of the business strategy and creating specific processes to ensure success. The role of the mentor is now much more expanded to not only help sponsor and guide an individual's career path and be a confidant, but to provide assistance and teaching in a specific skill/competency or knowledge area in a focused and planned format.

Mentoring is one of the most valuable and cost efficient tools an organization has for the development of its people. Mentoring delivers measurable, bottom-line results when linked with business objectives. It can:

  • Support recruiting and retention goals.
  • Drive inclusion by promoting diversity of thought and style.
  • Develop leadership talent and build bench strength in your talent pipeline.
  • Accelerate employee development, performance and cultural assimilation.
  • Facilitate knowledge transfer and create a learning organization.
  • Strengthen competitive advantage in the marketplace.

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What results can my organization expect from a mentoring program?


Mentoring is one of the most valuable tools that an organization has for the development of its people because:

  • Mentoring makes the most of an organization's internal talent and facilitates knowledge transfer.
  • Mentoring allows individuals to learn on the job on a just-in-time basis, without spending time away from work.
  • Mentoring reinforces formal training.
  • Mentoring gives an individual ownership of continuous learning and helps to create a true learning organization.
  • Mentoring builds sponsorship and visibility for diverse talent.
  • Mentoring provides models of leadership that are directly applicable to participants' roles in the organization.

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Can a person's manager be their mentor?

A person's manager can be their mentor. However, that does not usually occur for several reasons. A mentor is someone who is there to support an individual towards broad objectives. A manager must be concerned, first and foremost, with the individual's specific performance objectives in their current job. A manager certainly can share their broader skill and knowledge with an individual and should take and interest in the individual's career. Mentoring relationships can be more supportive and open when the mentor has no vested interest in, and does not formally evaluate, the individual's performance. If a manager does engage in the process, it is critical for him or her to clearly understand the role and exhibit the necessary sensitivity.

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How does the mentoring process work?

The foundation of the unique Hi-Impact Mentoring® process is the Mentoring Learning Plan. It is the roadmap that guides the mentoring relationship. The Learning Plan is a tool designed to ensure that learning goals are clearly defined, and expectations for the relationship and timelines are communicated and agreed upon. Areas of focus include:

  • Review dates for the status of relationship
  • Review dates for the status of objectives
  • Meeting times and locations
  • Learning styles
  • Confidentiality parameters
  • Agreements
  • Goals/objectives, action steps and due dates

Learn about the phases of our mentoring process.

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How can mentoring support diversity and inclusion initiatives?

Pairing two individuals together-one who needs to learn and one who able to teach-is the perfect opportunity to expose employees to new ways of learning and interacting. Our programs encourage diversity in thought and action, as well as in gender, orientation and ethnicity. A mentoring initiative allows people who would otherwise have limited or no access to certain people or facets of the business, structured access.

Specifically, mentoring can support diversity initiatives by:

  • Broadening the reach of development offered in the organization.
  • The learning achieved through pairing individuals of different backgrounds or styles.

Some mentoring processes deliberately attempt to match individuals in this way, offering tools for enriching the individuals' perspectives.

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How do you match mentors with mentees?

We pair individuals based on the needs and learning goals of the mentee and the skills and experiences of the mentor. Factors, such as style or background should be considered, though it can be a mistake to assume that individuals with like styles or backgrounds will be the best match. Growth may occur by virtue of sharing different approaches or perspectives. Note that there is nothing in this definition that says that the mentor has to be a certain age or at a certain job level to be effective.

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What's the first step in implementing a mentoring process?

Before launching a mentoring initiative in your organization, we recommend participating in the Mentoring Organizational Readiness and Effectiveness (M*O*R*E) Workshop. The concept of mentoring, along with specific guidelines and criteria are presented to allow participants to evaluate the value of mentoring as a business strategy for their organization and how to launch or enhance a formal mentoring process. The workshop session will strengthen the team committed to the mentoring initiative and provide the opportunity to learn about and benchmark best practices of a variety of our clients. During the workshop, attention is given to specific elements that ensure that the organization can implement a successful mentoring initiative and how to link the process to your performance management process and specific business objectives to create measurable results.

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How can mentoring be automated for a large or dispersed organization?

The Hi-Impact Mentoring® process offers a system for making mentoring and its related learning more efficient than a paper-based process. It includes role profiles, an assessment component for matching and a mechanism for tracking progress. This advanced approach allows an organization to take its mentoring process to the next level by offering the benefits of mentoring to many more individuals who might otherwise not have been able to participate.

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What is coaching?

Coaching is a formalized relationship in which a qualified coach works with a business professional or leader to help that individual achieve higher levels of performance. The ultimate goal of coaching is to cultivate capabilities and tap an individual's full potential. In doing so, the individual expands possibilities, creates new options, shifts viewpoints and accelerates results.

Professional coaching is similar to athletic coaching in the sense that it also focuses on specific skills (e.g., perfecting a golf or tennis swing). In this case, the coach and client work together to perfect new work behaviors to support a desired change. In executive coaching, the desired change may involve something as basic as improving listening skills or as complicated as mastering behavioral change.

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Why hire a professional coach?

A well-timed coaching experience can pave the way for individuals to maximize their career opportunities and contributions to an organization. Most professionals who take advantage of coaching do so to overcome challenges in the workplace, make the most of a recent promotion or to enhance professional relationships. Successful coaching assignments are usually focused on one or two overarching goals or objectives. These may involve:

  • Establishing more effective relationships with a boss or colleagues.
  • Leading a newly formed team to excellence.
  • Reviving a stalled career.
  • Preparing for upward mobility within the organization.

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How can coaching benefit my organization or me?

The increasing popularity of coaching as a talent management tool suggests that effective coaching can have significant positive benefits for an organization. Over 70% of Fortune 500 companies have made coaching a critical component of their employee development resources. Coaching helps:

  • Prepare people in new roles to maximize their performance.
  • Eliminate behaviors that hold employees back or cause friction.
  • Prepare executive and emerging leaders to meet business and management challenges.
  • Assist executive and emerging leaders in improving personal impact.
  • Accelerate the integration of leaders into a new organization.
  • Create better-performing, more cohesive teams and business units.

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How does the coaching process work at The Mentor Group?

Our coaching consultancy is designed to meet the individual goals of our clients that are typically set and agreed to before the process begins. Fundamental steps include:

  • Completing a coaching contract that spells out an individual's coaching goals.
  • Achieving alignment regarding objectives, priorities, desired results and measurements.
  • Establishing a dialogue while building a foundation of trust and confidentiality.
  • Establishing ground rules, expectations and timetables.
  • Gathering information from the organization about the individual via interviews with supervisors, colleagues and subordinates.
  • Assessment of individual motivators, interests, values and behaviors.
  • Formalizing a plan of action for the work environment.
  • Measuring progress, discussing set backs and celebrating successes.

We have found that the most important ingredients to successful coaching are clear goals, the client's openness to feedback and a willingness to change.

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What makes for a good coach?

Coaching is an effective means of fostering personal and professional growth in employees. When entering into a formal arrangement, a qualified coach and the participating individual agree to a contract and create a structured plan to measure results and define success. This is why essential characteristics of coach include:

  • Business acumen and management level experience in a corporation or business.
  • A track record in helping others change through counseling and teaching.
  • Solid interpersonal and communication skills, as well as the ability to both support and confront the client.
  • An executive presence (e.g., professional, confident and articulate).
  • An ability to recognize whether an individual is serious about working toward change and is fully engaged in the process.
  • The talent to push individual clients to new levels of personal awareness and achievement without compromising the quality of the coaching relationship.
  • Strong personal ethics with regard to professional standards, personal boundaries and confidentiality.
  • Maturity, self awareness, patience and humor.
  • Skills in the administration and interpretation of assessments, including personality profiles.
  • An ability to monitor and assess progress in a candid manner while making periodic adjustments.
  • Flexibility to work with a wide range of leaders and, if necessary, the ability to work with a team.

Importantly, there must be good chemistry between a coach and an individual because without a certain comfort level, the requisite trust and openness for a successful program will be lost.

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What is the nature of the coaching relationship?

A good coach is honest and forthright with clients. This means that clients can expect the coach to acknowledge and build on an individual's strengths and professional capabilities. There will also be times when a coach must be critical or confront certain behaviors and actions.

Since coaching is a forward-looking process, clients are encouraged to try new behaviors in the work environment. Because these new behaviors can be awkward at first and difficult to master, the coach is there to provide support and to help the individual adhere to the program. In the end, clients should expect a unique level of forthright dialogue, feedback and counseling.

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Is the coaching process confidential?

Confidentiality is an essential ingredient to a successful coaching engagement. It is discussed at length before the sessions begin with clear agreement about what will be shared and what will be protected. Ordinarily, coaches will not share any personal issues or sensitive information with the organization.

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© 2006 The Mentor Group Inc.