What is the difference between coaching and mentoring? As leaders, we often wonder what our role in our business is. Do we lead with an iron fist and ensure that the company runs efficiently and exactly how we want? Do we lead quietly and with an open-door policy? Do we try to combine the two styles or opt for something entirely different? 

If you’re here, you probably decided that the coaching leadership style is right for you. But that leads to a whole series of other questions. 

Before we dive into the differences, let’s establish brief definitions. Mentors are people who share their knowledge, skills, and/or experience to develop and grow. Coaches are people who give private or specialized training. 

These two definitions may be similar, but they are worlds apart. If you choose to lead with a coaching style, you will do more than just advise and train–you are going to treat everyone the same yet understand that each team member has unique needs and personalities.

Pair Working at a Laptop - What is the Difference Between Coaching and Mentoring

A Coach’s Interest

 

Coaches shouldn’t be interested in making people happy. Their interest should be what creates growth–because, ultimately, a business leader needs to see growth in the company and their employees. 

Whether you’re new to a leadership position or new to the concept of coaching leadership, putting the happiness of your employees aside can seem harsh. Coming to terms with pushing your teammates to grow rather than be happy can be uncomfortable. But this discomfort you feel at the idea of putting aside happiness for growth is what will ultimately lead to both. 

Just imagine how it will feel when you see your team members thriving in the workplace, and as a result, the company is also thriving. 

It may seem counterintuitive, but to achieve your goals, you have to get uncomfortable. Healthy tension is what keeps successful businesses growing. 

As a team leader, it is your responsibility to push people past their comfort zones and encourage this healthy tension. But, you have to earn the right to do this. That means making sure that your team members feel valued. Without a relationship that’s built on trust, your team members can’t feel valued, and without that sense of value and trust, pushing your team past their comfort zone may not be possible. 

Psychological Safety

 

Psychological safety doesn’t mean ‘soft.’ When a coach builds relationships with their team, it can be easy to focus so much on the relationship that they forget to push their team members to grow. But that’s not what being a coach means. 

If you’re asking yourself, “What is the difference between coaching and mentoring?” this is one of the differences. 

In mentoring, there isn’t as much of a push to grow and change. But, with coaching, we’re constantly encouraging our team members to get out of their comfort zones–to get into the space where they are performing at their highest potential. 

But that doesn’t mean soft. 

 

A Foundation of Trust and It’s Difference Between Coaching and Mentoring

 

When you’re a coach, you build a strong foundation of trust, and with that trust, you have a great relationship with your team members. This relationship doesn’t mean that you can’t make the tough decisions. It doesn’t mean that you can’t tell your team members what to do. One of the reasons a coach builds a strong relationship with their team is to push them further. 

Just imagine if you’re in the office and never speak with your team members–you have no relationship with them–then you ask them to do something that makes them uncomfortable. Will that team member get out of their comfort zone and perform better than ever? No. Probably not. Instead, they will get angry and start venting about the poor leadership advice they received. 

On the other hand, when you build rapport with your team, you build trust, show you care, and provide encouragement, pushing them to do their best comes naturally. And not only that, but when you have a relationship with your team, you have a clear idea of their capabilities. 

Your team will feel comfortable enough to push themselves and see the growth that good leaders want to see and encourage with psychological safety. 

Check out the full podcast episode to better answer the question “what is the difference between coaching and mentoring?”. For more great insights into coaching and leadership, consider working with the Molitor Group