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Coach or Mentor – which one do I choose?

There often comes a time in developing a business when we need support and, fortunately, there are many people out there willing to help. Many business advisors offer their services as mentors and coaches. But is there a difference between the two and, more importantly, does it matter?

There are both similarities and differences between coaching and mentoring and it’s important to understand the benefits of both.

As a starting point, one of the most succinct phrases I’ve heard to differentiate between the two is that a good mentor will have some great answers for your questions, whereas a good coach will have some great questions for your answers.

What does that mean?

Mentoring – a description

Well, in mentoring, the calibre and experience of the mentor themselves is particularly important. The mentor needs to have experience, knowledge, and expertise, preferably in the sector where you’re operating. A good mentor is willing to teach what he or she knows, passing on their own experience and wisdom, often providing very practical hands-on guidance.

While mentoring is often about giving help and advice, the value of just having a wise support who you can go to with your issues and who can listen and offer appropriate perspective can be of immense benefit, particularly where people may lack experience or specific knowledge of how to run their business.

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Coaching – a description

In coaching, the need for experience or a similar background is less. Coaching is about identifying and maximizing the existing skills, knowledge and wisdom of the individual and focusing it so they can perform at their full potential, confidently and with increased efficiency.

In coaching there is often a greater focus on the personal attributes of the business owner, e.g. communication skills, leadership, motivation and being able to channel their energy to gain maximum return from their business.

So, which is best, a Coach or Mentor?

Both mentor and coach are there to provide support, to listen and understand where you are and help you to both articulate and then reach your business’ objectives. Both will have other useful contacts who can offer more bespoke services, e.g. marketing, website development, bookkeeping or HR advice.

Undoubtedly there is a time and a place for both. Each has a unique set of skills that can be used to guide, to support, to challenge and to empower the individual. A number of mentors and coaches are proficient in both areas and will flex their approach to suit your personal needs at any one time. In other words, there may be times when you don’t know the answer, so it doesn’t matter how good the question, you need some guidance. On other occasions, the best solution is the one you come up with, so being able to discover that is the best way to progress.

In selecting someone who can help, don’t hesitate to ask them how they work, what’s their approach, how flexible are they? Do they know the difference between mentoring and coaching?

And don’t forget the bottom line, can they help you to get what you want? If the answer to that is yes, their job title really doesn’t matter. Mentor, coach, the choice is yours!

Blunt advice on coaching and mentoring from Yorkshire Powerhouse

You’ve read our thoughts on picking between a Coach or Mentor – have you any questions?

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