Mentoring
Oct 1, 2021

Mentoring or coaching - what's the best fit for your workplace?

Do you have a learning budget to spend, but you are unsure if to invest in mentoring or coaching? Do you struggle to understand the benefits of each? I asked Misa Kozinova, Executive Coach and Leadership Mentor, to share her experience and specify each development program's differences. 

What does mentoring bring to employees?  

Oxford dictionary defines  mentoring as "the practice of helping and advising a less experienced person over a period of time, especially as part of a formal program in a company, university, etc." 

In a company, it usually means that more experienced specialists, managers, and team leaders take on the role of mentors and help less experienced team members. It's also possible to involve external mentors for fresh ideas outside the given team or the company structure. Mentors can help with particular projects, share the experience from the past, or motivate and encourage by telling career stories.

As Misa Kozinova shared, "The main difference between mentors and coaches is the advice. While coaches never advise, mentors rely on their experience and provide advice for the benefit of the mentee. The mentor is expected to be more experienced and knowledgeable in the particular area the mentoring is about."

"If there is an engineer who has just been promoted to a managerial role, they will likely greatly benefit from having a mentor. The mentor (who is a senior manager) will provide them with advice and guidance because of the existing experience in practice."

The mentoring exercise can usually be free for the company if both mentor and mentee work in the same organization. The only expense is the time allocated for the development program. If your teams can't allocate time for senior colleagues to take on mentor roles, it's possible to request external mentors, for example, from the community of Femme Palette mentors

What is the goal of coaching in the company? 

Initially, coaching originated as part of the sports environment, where coaches motivated athletes to achieve results they couldn't imagine achieving. The coaching practice then moved into business and became a popular activity for anyone exploring their limits and moving even further. In contrast to mentors who can be any senior specialists or managers in the company, coaches are certified professionals who have a code of conduct they must stick to.

Misa added, "Coaches empower coachees to find answers within themselves. The coach does not provide advice at all and relies on the coachee's expertise instead. They tap into the unlimited potential of the coachee's mind and help resolve dilemmas, overcome inner resistance to action, and see the situation at hand with a fresh perspective. The coach is more on the empowering side and does not necessarily need to be a subject matter expert except for the art of coaching itself." 

"The more the team member grows in the role, the more they will know what they are doing. It might happen that the processes they have been doing don't bring them desired results anymore, or they feel stuck no matter how much they know. At this point, it's time to work with a coach. Coaching is extremely powerful when it comes to career development and personal growth."

Taking the nature of coaching and the certification required, the activity is most likely to be paid. It's possible to introduce a learning opportunity and provide coaching certification to trainers who can take on this role for internal support or source external coaches who will help team members with their struggles and blocks.

Mentoring or coaching? The choice is yours!

So, how is it better to support the talent development of your employees – by introducing mentoring or coaching? There's no right or wrong answer, and the best is to implement both programs or one after another. Mentoring can be a good start for many specialists seeking to develop within their area, get fresh inspiration and practical external knowledge. However, if it's not clear for employees where to grow anymore or what goals to select next, coaching comes in handy, by helping navigate and find the answers within themselves. 

Misa recommended, "I would definitely recommend having a mentoring program in place as a basis and building a coaching culture on top of it for every company. My perception also is that coaching is still on the rise and that coaching culture is something that every company should strive for. For example, I run a Coaching Community at Red Hat where I teach managers and individual contributors alike to coach. They practice rules of coaching: No Judgement, No Assumptions, No Projections, No Advice, and No WHYs.”


Don't hesitate to check out the Femme Palette mentoring program for companies, where it's possible to discuss the development goals of your HR team with a dedicated program manager. 

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