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Andrew McLaughlin

Andrew McLaughlin

5th Feb 2020

Programme Director on the IMI Professional Diploma in Executive Coaching and the IMI Professional Diploma in Organisational Behaviour.

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Coaching vs Mentoring

As children, we all had the teacher who stood in front of the classroom, told us to take our textbooks out and then went through the lesson by rote.

No imagination, no engagement, no connection.

This is not the case when we talk about coaching and mentoring. Both are development techniques that use personal bonds to make learning stick, bringing views from the outside-in to challenge preconceived assumptions of the individuals involved.

One thing to remember that I have discovered through personal experience is that this whole engagement with people is joyous. ‘There’s a huge amount of satisfaction in it, and that for me is one of the dominant themes when we talk about coaching and mentoring.


Humans desire connections
One of the most fundamental aspects of human psychology is our desire, closely approaching a need, to connect with other people. It elevates our thinking in almost every way and will both support and challenge our worldviews, which is crucial for critical thinking.

The first thing I’d say is talk to strangers because everyone in the world knows something more about something than you do.

In today’s modern world however, we are being increasingly encouraged to distance ourselves from one another, primarily through digital means. Even phone calls between colleagues at each other’s desks have been replaced by chat channels, and we find ourselves busily multi-tasking tasks that seem removed from any human activity.

And when we remove emotions from a task, we largely remove the brain’s ability to remember and learn from it.

When it comes to coaching and mentoring, this human emotion and engagement are inherent in the process. They are methods of learning and self-learning that is hard to match because they address so many of the core needs of a human mind.


When and Where
My advice for mentors is never to say, ‘do this’ or ‘this will work for you’. Rather, say ‘I did this’ or ‘this is what I experienced’, and leave it up to them whether they can draw from your experience.

For mentoring then, it is about sharing experiences.

On the other hand, a coach’s role is to facilitate the thought process of the other person, so you would much more rarely share your own experience. It may, indeed, muddy the waters of their thinking as humans are prone to draw conclusions from other people’s experiences that aren’t applicable.


We are all coaches and mentors
Coaching sits right in the centre of any managers key list of skills and it’s something you do every day. If you cultivate it to its fullest degree, your career and other careers will benefit hugely. In the final part of your life, it’s about passing the torch, and mentoring is a hugely satisfying way of passing that torch.

Both subtle parts of the same art, mentoring and coaching are some of our most powerful tools to make learning and development impactful on both the teacher and pupil. At its heart, mentoring is about sharing experiences between two people from different ends of the spectrum while coaching is about drawing out the answers from another.

Learning is joyful, particularly when we do it with – and through – other people.

Individuals and organisations looking to make learning stick and to develop individuals as both people and professionals, should be using coaching and mentoring as core pillars in their strategy. By knowing and applying the subtle differences between the two, a leader can do the thing that great leaders do; create stars around them.

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