By LaTosha Newton
In terms of career development, being assigned a coach or mentor can be very helpful. Most people seem to think a mentor and a coach are the same, but the roles are different. Mentors focus on the person and their career, and support them as they grow and mature within the organization. A mentor serves as facilitator, teacher and sounding board. Coaches are more focused on job-related performance – specific actions, behaviors and tasks that builds skills aimed at improvement and goal achievement.
In my organization, particularly in my department, we assign new employees a coach to assist with the training process. Using coaches allows employees to commit to tasks and activities that are realistic, useful and important (as adult learning theory suggests). This developing relationship is cultivated in an environment of mutual trust; new employees are encouraged to reflect on what they know and what they need to know. Rapport is built between a coach and the coachee based on teamwork and performance with a specific agenda. This process has been very successful in my department, and adds another dimension to the training process.
My organization recently implemented a formalized mentor program. It typically assigns a more-experienced employee to guide the development of a less-experienced employee. We were long overdue for a mentoring program, and I cannot wait to compile data and gather feedback from the mentoring program.
I personally feel a coach is essential with performance-driven and task-related job activities. A mentor is important as a facilitator with no set agenda, who’s more focused on support in the professional growth process. Both coaches and mentors are beneficial for training and career development.
Which career-development situations are better suited for mentors, and which for coaches? What is the fine line that distinguishes between mentor and coach? What can a mentor or coach really do for your career?
References: Cumming, T.G. & Worley, C.G. (2009). Organization development and change (9th ed.).Mason,OH. South-Western.