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Mentoring and Coaching in the Workplace

Introduction and historical origins of Mentoring
Throughout the passage of time, mentors have shaped, informed and influenced the development of their protegés. For example, Socrates mentored Plato, who in turn mentored Aristotle, who mentored Alexander the Great. In Greek mythology, Mentor was a close friend and ally of Odysseus. Mentor was assigned with the guardian responsibility for Odysseus’ son, Telemachus, while the father was away fighting during the Trojan War.

Defining Mentoring and Coaching – a scholarly perspective

There is often debate between the similarities, differences and synergies between mentoring and workplace coaching. From a scholarly perspective, “A mentor is a more experienced individual willing to share knowledge with someone less experienced in a relationship of mutual trust” (David Clutterbuck, 2014). In defining the difference between mentoring and coaching, Clutterbuck (2008) believes that coaching deals with personal development while mentoring is associated with the mentee’s much broader holistic career advancement. Other scholars (Brock, 2009) argue that coaching and mentoring should divert from competition and move to collaboration.

  1. The 9 Fundamental points of differentiation between workplace mentoring and coaching (Cotter, 2020)

Having worked directly with 178 different companies and according to my work-based research (2020), I’ve found 9 fundamental points of differentiation between mentoring and workplace coaching. These points are illustrated below:

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“However, Mentoring and workplace Coaching are not mutually exclusive and complement one another by developmentally bridging the gaps between book smarts and work smarts”

The hallmark characteristics of exceptional mentors and coaches

The best mentors stroke a balance between providing directive and supportive mentee-directed behaviour and action.molestie nisl.

The most competent and impactful mentors and coaches are able to strike a meaningful balance between directive (task-oriented) and supportive (relationship-oriented) behaviour. They excel as behavioural economists who anticipate, recognize, regulate, monitor, evaluate and project current and future performance to achieve constructive and functional outcomes.

Furthermore, exceptional mentors and coaches actively demonstrate growth, investment and abundance mindsets. They exhibit a stewardship and servant leadership responsibility and commitment.

  1. Conclusion

Although mentoring and workplace coaching are fundamentally different, it is apparent that they do complement one another. Mentoring and workplace coaching are thankless people development roles and require significant personal and professional sacrifices to serve the best interests of the protegé and coachee, respectively. Therefore, the exploratory journey to actualizing to an exceptional mentor and/or coach, in which there is a balance between directive and supportive behaviour, is one of introspection, reflection and projection. The mentoring and coaching development pathway is a dedicated process of intention, aspiration (ambition), inspiration and perspiration.


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About Author

Dr Charles Cotter

Dr Charles Cotter is an independent global blended learning practitioner and L&D strategist. He is currently the facilitator of the Prospen Africa Fundamental Differences between Mentoring and Workplace Coaching training programme (F2F and/or online).

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