Do you need a mentor or coach? Research shows that you do.
As a business owner or head of a department, you may be faced with difficult decisions on a regular basis. Arguing on the work floor, too much workload jeopardizing deadlines, or difficult strategic choices require skills that are sometimes not always on hand. It is estimated that 40% of executives within the top 500 largest companies use a mentor and/or coach. Most of these companies even attribute part of their success to those mentors and coaches.
What is the difference between a mentor and a coach?
The main difference is the approach.
Mentors often have experience in the same field as the 'mentee'. They offer wisdom, insight, and advice based on their own experiences.
Coaches use questioning and facilitation to help individuals find their own solutions.
Coaches need not be experts in the area of the 'learner'. Instead, they are experts in the coaching process, using specific tools and techniques to help the person achieve their goals.
From my own experience, I know that I once hired a coach and almost got angry because I didn't get any advice. So I was actually looking for a mentor, but given the nature of my question, I was still better off with a coach. That's because coaches can let you transform as a person into a better version of yourself. (That was also what my help request was about). Whereas mentors show you the way and can think with you from their expertise in finding a solution to a particular problem.
The relationship with a mentor is also often more informal and can be long-lasting. It is based on mutual respect and shared interests, and while sharing their experiences, they may even act as role models.
In coaching, the relationship is often more formal and usually limited in time (e.g. for a certain number of sessions). Coaches are not necessarily role models but act as facilitators for change.
Can a coach also be a mentor and vice versa?
It is possible in theory, but difficult in practice. This is because certainly, a coach wants to stay in the questioning role to let the coachee come to insights on their own. In addition, a coach is usually not an expert in the coachee's field.
A Mentor, on the other hand, usually does not have the skills required to support someone effectively as a coach.
Why does someone seek the help of a coach or mentor?
88% of entrepreneurs with a business coach or mentor find them invaluable. And according to Eric Schmidt, Google, and Apple, for example, owe much of their trillion-dollar businesses to their business coach.
There are countless sub-areas where a mentor or coach can be of help. But many requests for help involve the sub-areas below:
Executive coaches can help develop leadership skills, such as decision-making, communication, conflict resolution, and strategic planning skills. This can increase the effectiveness of executives and managers.
Executive coaching or mentoring can help improve performance, especially when an executive is underperforming or there is a need to achieve a higher level of performance.
Executives can hire a coach to support their personal development, such as improving emotional intelligence, interpersonal skills, or work-life balance.
Coaching or mentoring can prepare high-potential employees for senior positions within the company.
Coaches or mentors can help executives manage conflict and build better relationships with their team, colleagues, and superiors.
The pressures and demands of leadership roles can be stressful. Coaches can provide techniques and strategies to manage stress effectively.
In times of organizational change, such as mergers, acquisitions, or major strategic shifts, a coach or mentor can provide support and guidance to leaders facing these challenges.
Onboarding of executives:
When new executives are hired, coaches can speed up the onboarding process and help the executive understand organizational culture, dynamics, and expectations more quickly and effectively.
By providing feedback and facilitating self-reflection, coaches can help executives better understand their strengths and weaknesses, which can lead to more effective leadership.
The Taboo on Hiring a Coach or Mentor
For years, there was kind of a taboo on hiring a coach or mentor. Certainly, a coach would be like a glorified psychologist, and psychologists are only needed when you have a problem mentally.
This caused a lot of leaders to use a coach or mentor, but not come out openly for it. I myself have coached many a leader and entrepreneur of whom nobody was allowed - and sometimes still is not allowed - to know that it was not him or her, but me as a coach who was behind the personal transformation.
Fortunately, the taboo problem is much less now, but another problem has taken its place. Everyone seems to be a coach or mentor these days. Without any training or thorough knowledge.
How do you choose the right coach or mentor?
The most important thing when choosing a coach or mentor is the personal click. An inexperienced coach or mentor with a good click can achieve more than a seasoned professional who has no click with you.
The second factor is that there needs to be trust. You want to be sure that what you put on the table stays between the two of you.
There is also a difference between choosing a mentor or a coach.
When choosing a mentor, the knowledge and experience in the specific field are hugely important. After all, you want sound advice. Remember that in some cases it is better to follow a course or training than to hire a mentor.
When choosing a coach, the expertise in the area you need help with is important. I myself do a lot of leadership coaching, self-awareness & authenticity, and (personal) vision and mission formation. But for conflict management and change management, there are much better coaches because this is not my area of expertise. With my coaching skills, I could go a long way, but there are coaches who have much more affinity and specialize in this.
Finally, it is important to know whether a coach is more business or private-oriented. Business coaching requires a slightly different approach than private coaching.