Do you want a leadership coach or a mentor? (The answer may not be as clear as you think.)

Musing for:

Do you want a leadership coach or a mentor?

Those of us who help leaders succeed sure work in a confusing industry. I recently heard a colleague explain the difference between a mentor and a coach. Guess what. His definitions were exactly the opposites of mine.

He comes from an educational background, where a “coach” offers specific advice and a step-by-step plan, whereas a “mentor” helps a leader think through their challenges by asking evocative questions.

My training is aligned with the International Coaching Federation, whose core competencies emphasize the coach’s role in facilitating growth through listening and evoking awareness, and not so much in giving concrete advice.

What’s interesting is that both of us recognized the value that comes from the learned skill of evoking someone’s awareness through careful listening and astute questions. We both recognize that too quickly giving concrete advice can feel helpful but may, in fact, derail the very progress we’re trying to help our clients achieve.

I’m not going to try to settle any debate on whether “coach” or “mentor” is the right word for this kind of service. And I certainly understand the feeling and the desire to just have someone tell you what it is you need to do next – regardless of what they call themselves.

But whether they call themselves a coach or a mentor, and even if you’re sure they’re capable of giving you relevant, concrete advice, be sure to look for someone skilled in listening and evoking your own awareness.

I’ll talk more about this on Thursday, so keep your eyes open to watch for my next video.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *