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Coaching, Mentoring, Teaching. What's the Difference?

This lesson is a part of an audio course Coaching Skills for Managers by Karina Margole

In lesson 1, we talked about what coaching is and what some of the benefits of coaching are, both on an individual level and at the business level. We also talked about how it can help with developing members of your team.

In this lesson, we will talk about the difference between coaching and other methods of developing your staff, such as mentoring and teaching. We will also talk about when to use coaching and when to use other tools.

In both teaching and mentoring, you are there providing advice and sharing your experience. With coaching, you are helping the person work through their problem and come up with their own solution.

With teaching or training, the aim is to teach a specific skill, have some opportunity for the person receiving the training to practice that skill, and then have some sort of evaluation of that skill. It's very useful when a person is eager to learn a specific skill that you might be an expert in.

Mentoring is also a way to share knowledge and expertise but not in as structured a way as teaching. It's usually a conversation that involves sharing knowledge and expertise with the intention of provoking new ideas and thinking in the person receiving the mentoring. It's not as detailed or structured as training and is useful when the person receiving mentoring already has some experience in the field but might be faced with a tough challenge that they don't know quite how to handle.

One of the fundamental differences between coaching and other methods mentioned above is that in coaching, you, as a coach, don't offer any advice. We will talk about why in a later lesson, but it's crucial to great coaching. As a coach, you are there to provide the structure and the thinking space. It is the person being coached that fills it with content. This approach works very well when the person being coached has a specific goal, but they don't know how to get there. The coach is there to keep the person being coached focussed, to challenge and to encourage but not to offer any advice or share their own experience.

So, to recap, teaching is formal and detailed. It helps when a person needs to learn a specific skill from someone who is great at that skill. Mentoring is less formal and more of a sharing of knowledge and experience. It's not as detailed, and it's not about a specific skill. It's more about the experience that a mentor has that a mentee can draw upon. Coaching is great when a person is presented with a problem that they need to explore and come up with a solution to. There is no advice or sharing of experiences between the coach and the coachee.

In the next lesson, we will talk about the different skills and beliefs a coach needs in order to be a great coach before diving deeper into each one in the coming lessons.

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Written by

Karina Margole