Mentors and coaches have a long history of supporting and nurturing protégés through close working relationships with protégés. They offer encouragement and guidance while their protégés work on accomplishing their goals. Both mentors and coaches have the unique opportunity to share their expertise, wisdom, and knowledge while their protégé gains a foundation for building the necessary skills for achieving success in their endeavor. Mentoring or coaching can be a rewarding experience for a mentor, coach or protégé; however, although the roles of mentors and coaches may overlap, their roles and responsibilities are quite different.
Coaching can be part of mentoring, but mentors are not coaches. Coaches are responsible for their protégés meeting specific short-term goals. Common goals a coach can effectively facilitate are skills-based and are specific. Coaches focus on the short-term accomplishment of a goal or, the development of a single skill. For example, a coach can have a powerful impact when a member wants to enhance or develop their use of pauses, vocal variety or gestures when preparing to deliver a presentation. A coach will assume the responsibility for providing the steps for the protégé to meet their presentation goals by giving specific feedback and direction to a protégés as they prepare for that single event. The coach determines the tasks and steps for the protégé to achieve a successful outcome.
The Mentor’s role is different. The mentor’s role is to provide support as the protégé takes personal responsibility for working toward the accomplishment of broader goals over an extended period. An experienced and knowledgeable mentor knows the value of their wisdom. They also know how to balance sharing their expertise while allowing their protégés to learn on their own. For example, the protégé may choose to discuss their experiences while working on a challenging project and to share the knowledge they gained by trial and error. A mentor can support a protégé by listening to their thoughts, concerns, and challenges faced, and offer advice for handling similar situations in the future. The mentor offers advice, however, it is the protégé who determines the necessary tasks and steps for their success.
When the primary functions of mentors and coaches are clearly understood by the protégé, the chances of a successful outcome are much higher. Mentors and coaches should identify the needs of the protégé by asking probing questions and listening to the specific needs and goals. An initial interview is one of the best ways for a mentor or coach can determine the role best suited for a particular protégé. By listening and noting differences, but focusing on commonalities, a coach or mentor can enhance their relationship and partnership with a protégé. A tailored approach to suggestions and feedback, designed to coordinate with the protégé’s goals and personality, will often form a strong bond and a foundation for the success of mentor coach and protégé.
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