Coaching and Mentoring explained

Discover the core differences between coaching and mentoring.

Both coaching and mentoring can be described as a collaborative process by which the client is helped through focused conversation. The client does not need ‘fixing’ but is known to be naturally creative, resourceful and whole.

Coaching Explained

The ‘client’ can be an individual, a team or even a group of people who do not know each other yet coming together to work on a question they have in common. The coach is not an expert in the client’s professional field, but an expert in helping others develop. While the coach has the questions, it is the client who has the answers.

At Socius, coaching is characterised by:

  • A client-centered approach: the client determines the agenda and the coach flexes to the client’s individual needs in the process
  • Mutual trust, in which feedback can be given and received both ways
  • A focus on personal development: the question or issue becomes a source of rich learning for the client
  • Practical and results-oriented conversations
  • Respect for the client’s autonomy and expertise: the coach does not give personal opinions or advice
  • A temporary nature: a coaching collaboration usually lasts for months, up to a year
  • Confidentiality: only when a client can speak their mind can work be effective
  • Supportive challenge: without challenge, coaching remains a pleasant conversation!

Mentoring Explained

Mentoring shares similarities with coaching and there are some key differences too. Similar to coaching, mentoring is driven by what the client needs to work on, not what the mentor thinks they might focus on. However, the mentor is an expert in the professional field the client is interested in. More often than not the work is 1:1 rather than team or group work.

Our approach to mentoring is that:

  • A mentor is like a coach who gives expert advice, but strictly on request only
  • Our mentors skilfully navigate the tension between advice-giving and being invested in the options open to the client
  • Mentoring collaborations tend to be long term compared to coaching. They can continue for years, often on and off
  • A trusting and respectful relationship between mentor and client is essential to success, as is the case with coaching
  • Mentoring sessions are confidential, the same as with coaching
  • A mentor can expect their client to be proactive and self-motivated, just like with coaching
  • A successful mentor helps the client to explore options and opportunities widely and thoroughly, just like a coach would
  • Neither coaches nor mentors ask questions to satisfy their own curiosity!