What is Business Coaching and Mentoring: What You Need to Know

In the business world, managing as a coach is a necessity not only for your success, but also for your survival. Business coaching is about helping employees become more effective — and supporting and involving your employees in the process. Coaching influences employee adaptability, productivity, and retention. It helps you make better use of your time.

It is acknowledged by senior management in many organisations that their company will thrive if they offer some form of coaching and mentoring to their staff.

More often than not, mentoring and coaching are used interchangeably in the business context. That’s why at many organizations, a mentor is expected to undertake coaching responsibilities as well. But despite what most people might think, there is a big difference between a mentor and a coach.

If you are wondering how these two roles differ and what these professionals bring to the table, you need to know the specific responsibilities of a mentor and a coach

People can get a professional qualification in coaching and mentoring, a certificate in coaching and mentoring; there are many courses offering training in coaching development, creative mentoring, career coaching, face to face training, online training, workplace mentoring, becoming a coaching and mentoring consultant, building a coaching network, business approaches to coaching and mentoring, distance learning, management mentoring, staff coaching, in-house training courses, 'out' house training courses. There are basic courses and advanced coaching and mentoring training and qualifications.

The list truly is endless!

It seems as though everyone from business schools to the corner shop is offering coaching and mentoring. The only problem is that for someone who has never used a coach or mentor before, it can all become very confusing.

For those who want to train to become a coach or mentor, the choices can seem daunting: 'Where do I begin?'

For companies who want to initiate a coaching and mentoring programme, they want the reassurance of the tangible benefits and return on their investment.

Coaching: we see a business, corporate or executive coach in much the way we see a sports coach. This person sets specific goals and objectives, sees what you need to do to achieve them and works with you on target setting, professional and personal development, expansion of your skills base and offers practical and relevant advice and guidance.

Mentoring: a mentor can almost be seen as a wise, experienced friend or favourite aunt or uncle type person. A mentor leads by example and is a role model. They might be very good at helping you see the big picture and understand the politics of the organisation you work for.

A coach can be a mentor and a mentor can be a coach or the role can be rolled into one. The key is that whatever term you use, the person being coached or mentored gets unbiased support and guidance.

Many great small business owners credit their success stories in part to having a great business coach. By combining the power of a business advisory board (who acts as a sounding board for ideas and challenges in your business), with a business coach that will help you to implement ideas and strategies borne from each monthly meeting. 

Why not try our free coach match tool to see which coach is the best fit for you?

What is a Mentor?

A mentor, in simple words, is someone who offers their knowledge, expertise and advice to those with less experience. By leveraging their experience and skills, mentors guide mentees in the right direction. Most of us might be familiar with the concept of a business mentor within our workplace as being someone who has more experience or wisdom and is willing to share their knowledge and insights in bringing on a younger colleague, guiding their career within the company.

It is only relatively recently however, that the term mentor has broken out of the workplace and into the marketplace and the term ‘business mentor’ is often freely bandied around to encompass a broad range of activities and services from business angels to non-executive directors.

A mentor helps mentees consider opportunities for career growth, gain confidence and improve interpersonal skills. The support is based on the mentor’s own experiences and learnings, which makes them more reliable figures in the eyes of the mentees.

A business mentor provides support to the mentees with regard to their career growth and interpersonal skill development. Specifically, a mentor helps mentees explore their career options, set development goals, develop new contacts and identify resources. In this way, a mentor serves as a professional advisor and role model for the mentees.

A mentor’s role evolves as the needs of his/her mentees change over time. In most instances, mentoring relationships are informal, while at times such relationships could be more formal. In formal mentoring relationships, mentors follow a structured approach to set realistic expectations and gain mutual benefits.

From a business perspective, mentors help employees gain more confidence in their work and develop skills to add value. Confident and satisfied employees steer organizations forward, which explains why a number of businesses are now shifting their focus on identifying the right mentoring programs.

Business mentoring does not involve employing a consultant or employee to help run your business. Instead, it’s a relationship between you, the business owner, and someone with business experience that can guide you through making the difficult decisions, point out ways of improving your business, ask you the tough questions and motivate you to want to achieve higher levels of performance, all within the bounds of a trusted relationship.

Because it's lonely at the top, business mentoring can offer you a partner in the process, a sharing of views with someone who really knows the ropes. Working with a business mentor will help you gain fresh insights into problems and decision making, through impartial, objective discussion and feedback.

Your business mentor has no agenda apart from your own success. This allows your mentor to give unbiased independent support to help your business grow and develop.

What is a Business Coach?

A business coach focuses on specific skills and development goals by breaking them into concrete tasks to be completed within a specified period of time. By doing so, business coaches help and guide businesses clarify their growth vision.

For many businesses, identifying and prioritising goals is a big challenge. Business coaches address this challenge by helping businesses prioritise their goals on the basis of importance. They follow a more formal, structured approach to resolve issues and manage specific aspects of the job.

A good business coach focuses on identifying goals, prioritising them and choosing the right path to achieve them. In doing so, business coaches help businesses become more accountable, goal-driven and competitive.

Business coaches cover various aspects of running a successful business. These may include sales targets, marketing strategies, communication skills, team building, leadership and more.

Coaches comprehensively assess businesses to recognise their core strength and growth challenges. Based on their assessment, they help formulate a plan or strategy, set targets and identify the steps required to achieve the desired results.

A great business coach challenges the status quo, questions business decisions and prompts organisations to take a closer look at their approach. This way, they bring in a fresh perspective to the business strategy and goals. But rather than simply questioning how things are run at a business, a coach guides the organisation to adopt appropriate growth strategies.

For businesses, a coach helps succeed by guiding in the right direction. Often businesses lose sight of where they want to be and the steps they need to follow to achieve success, a business coach provides clarity. They give pointed advice and opinions to get businesses back on track.

By now, it should be clear that a business mentor differs from a business coach. To sum up the difference between a mentor and a coach, here are some specific points of differentiation:

  • Mentoring is a long-term process based on mutual trust and respect. Coaching, on the other hand, is typically for a short period of time.
  • Mentoring is more focused on creating an informal association between the mentor and mentee, whereas coaching follows a more structured and formal approach.
  • A business mentor has first-hand experience of the mentee’s line of work. A business coach, however, does not need to have a hands-on experience of the kind of work the coachee is engaged in.
  • The topmost priority of a business mentor is to help develop skills that are not just relevant for the mentees in their present job, but also for the future. For a business coach, the biggest priority is to improve performance that impacts the present job.
What Are The Benefits Of A Business Coach?

Resist the potentially destructive belief that you must always go it alone, or that your team needs to address things amongst their own collective, without relying on outsiders. Instead, consider the value of coaching and mentoring through the perspective of a professional:

  • It brings back your focus. Becoming overwhelmed by tasks and responsibilities is natural. Business coaching can work to cut through the static, and help you to focus on the things that really matter.
  • It gives you crystal clear goals for the short-term and long-term. Mentoring through executive coaching can serve to help you define and build clear goals for the present, as well as for the future.
  • It brings up the tricky subject of accountability. Setting goals is only part of what you can gain from a business coach. The next step is to develop a process of accountability that will ensure these goals are met.
  • It creates meaningful brainstorming opportunities. One of the best things about business coaching is the fact that it can bring in an outsider for your brainstorming sessions. This is a concept that you might be suspicious of. However, it's worth keeping the possibility in mind. A business coach can provide a sounding board for ideas, as well a potential creative force that can help you to see things you never would have discovered on your own.
  • It provides personal development. Powerful executive coaching goes beyond simply giving an individual ideas and focus. A truly exceptional mentor/coach will provide similar gifts of inspiration and focus to individuals.
  • It brings you a wealth of experience. Any business coach worth your time and money will have more experience than you or anyone else at your company. It is rare that we have the opportunity to profit from such experience.

What are the Benefits of using a Business Mentor? 

  • Your business mentor will help you step back from your business - A business mentor can help you look at the “big picture”, and help you identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that you may have overlooked.
  • Your business mentor can offer guidance and share ideas during a growth phase - A successful, growing business brings new challenges such as hiring new staff, raising new capital and entering new markets. A business mentor can offer specific support, share best practice from other industries and sectors, caution against potential pitfalls and instil confidence in your plans.
  • Your business mentor will be a sounding board - A key role of a business mentor is to listen, stimulate and challenge your thinking. This will help you develop your own ideas and arrive at your own solutions to your business challenges at a much faster rate than doing this by yourself. This alone should lead to better decision making.
  • Your business mentor will encourage you to leverage your business networks - Your business mentor will help you develop your business network and customers within your industry, as well as other professionals.
  • Your business mentor will hold you accountable - Having a business mentor won’t automatically fix all your business challenges. You will still have to do the work and invest the time and effort to implement changes. A mentor will help you set goals and milestones as well make you accountable for delivering on them.
  • Your business mentor will keep you focused on your goals - It is very easy to get sidetracked when you run a business, your business mentor will make sure you do the high value work you should be doing and don’t get sidetracked!
  • Your business mentor will challenge you - Sometimes when we run a business we can get a little stale and start settling for things. Your business mentor will challenge you to go that extra mile to improve standards and to go from good to outstanding! They will help you develop your skills, increase your motivation and be there to celebrate your successes.

Both mentors and coaches benefit businesses in several ways. To benefit the most, businesses need to be clear on what their priorities are and what kind of support they are looking for. With the right support, small businesses can become more productive, profitable and competitive.

Despite the many similarities between coaching and mentoring, the 'purists' like to draw distinctions by pointing out the differences in techniques used in each. In reality, many of these distinctions are unnecessary and confusing. To add to the confusion, the rules of traditional coaching and mentoring are also often blurred by professional practitioners themselves. There are mentors who have little or no direct experience in their clients' roles and there are coaches who do.  

Why not try our free coach match tool to see which coach is the best fit for you?

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