Coach, Mentor, Whatever!!! So what's the diffrence?

Life coach, personal coach, leadership coach, coach, coach, coach… the list can go on and on. But really what’s the difference, besides may be a specialty in a specific area, aren’t all coaches the same? Are they not just a mentors? Well no, not at all. 

There are so many misconceptions and misunderstandings about the difference between a coach and mentor. Though there are many access points out there to break these down, I believe there is a very easy way to look at this. Simply put, a mentor can develop into your friend and a coach is strictly your accountability partner.
For this example, when I speak about coaches, I am talking about life/leadership/personnel coaches.

Well can’t a coach become a mentor?

Sure they can! But, during the time that you, the individual, have hired a person to be your coach, you have hired them for a very explicit reason, whether it be to reach specific goals, or any other reason you deem necessary for you and by you. So, I would encourage anyone in this position to be careful not to overstep their bounds during this time.

So really what is the difference? 

Here is some comparison between the two, to help in understanding better.
A life coach is a person who counsels and encourages clients on matters having to do with careers or personal challenges. The guidance of a coach can help individuals and teams to develop goals, becoming an accountability and/or brainstorming partner. Coaches can, and will, build a collaborative partnership between two people or a team, helping guide them through challenges and creating a lasting change, while reassuring along the way to the desired solutions. 

However, this is not to be misconstrued as a therapist, because a life coach is NOT. They do not validate victim mentality, nor should they heal emotional or mental illness. So, even though people will tell their issues and concerns at times, coaches are to guide individuals to make changes in life, become better suited to meet and exceed goals, and this can occur through solutions, actions, and progress; not to diagnosis any illnesses. 

Furthermore, coaches are not consultants; they are experts in the process of change! Helping people identify a desired outcome and being that persons or teams change agent. Here are some examples below:

  • Identify goals and make change 
  • Provide accountability and help in people/teams to take responsibility 
  • Direct people to establish healthy habits 
  • Create lasting change, determine a result and help get them 
  • Identify and maintain individual focus on their goals that are achievable and actionable ultimately working to the desired outcomes 
  • Provide options and solutions’ and possibilities (probing questions) 
  • Identify what is limiting individuals and help in empowering them to get and stay motivated 
  • Inspiring individuals to make decisions and take control their own lives 
With all that said, it still kind of sounds like a mentor…well let me explain further.
A mentor is an experienced individual in the area of expertise and trusted adviser. One that has experience in a profession, that as an individual will, build trust and become vulnerable with. Many times there are shared values and beliefs, along with people who take the time to answer the phone and have a high tendency to become friends in the end. This is because being a mentor one will develop and lead their mentee through little ongoing successes on a more personal basis. 

Being a mentor is also not a one-way street…huh? 

As a mentor like mentioned above they tend to work in the same profession or community, and the mentor/mentee relationship can go both ways; by sharing experiences with each other and even sharing advice to one another. Here is a list of things that a will make an effective mentor:

  • Be supportive and Caring through the encouragement personnel development of ideas, thoughts, dreams, so on and so forth 
  • Be protective guiding the mentee through a decision making process and informing them by offering critical knowledge, and working them to the complete picture prior to taking action 
  • Be honest, one which I consider the most important, especially when offering feedback. Giving dishonest feedback will impede the growth and development of a mentee. 
  • Establish the boundaries because the mentor is not to make a clone of one self, but allow the mentee to grow into self, and develop their own unique way. Offering a balanced perspective. 
  • Finally, a mentor will offer time, access, and be vulnerable. 

Life coach mentor, mentee, whatever. All in all, it is about helping others become better at what they do and help them become successful. With everything explained, it is not to say that a life coach would not have the propensity to develop into a friend with their potential clients; However, many coaches learn over time how to establish boundaries and have a professional way of handling business. From my experience, many do not want to cross the line between business and friendship, but then again, my clients that I have worked with have become my friends overtime.