It can be confusing to tell the difference between coaches and mentors, coaching and mentoring. Not all coaches are mentors, and not all mentors are coaches. Both coaches and mentors may use coaching skills and mentoring skills.
Coaches who work in an independent capacity should be ‘Independently Accredited’ by an independent organisation such as the EMCC, ICF, or AfC. I am Independently Accredited as a Master Practitioner Coach (and Mentor) by the EMCC. I integrate coaching and mentoring into my professional practice; I always use coaching skills, and I usually but not always also use mentoring skills.
Most mentors are not formally trained, and many coaches are also not formally trained.
There is robust evidence for the effectiveness of workplace coaching, in terms of multiple meta-analyses, and less so for mentoring.
Skilled and trained coaches and mentors in formalised partnerships are able to use both approaches depending on the your needs and preferences, although a mentor will need to be able to draw on their professional background, experience and technical expertise in a way which is directly relevant to your own field. Mentors are usually ‘more senior’ in the hierarchy. Coaching is explicitly a relationship of two equals.
Both coaching and mentoring involve a supportive, professional partnership. A simple way to begin to understand the differences between coaching and mentoring is using the concept of a spectrum of skills.
To the left of the spectrum are more open-ended, facilitative style approaches, relating to active listening. This is deemed to be more of a ‘coaching approach’: the coach/mentor’s role is to draw insight from the client to enable to client to solve their own challenges.
To the right of the spectrum are more teaching, skills building approaches. This is deemed to be more of a ‘mentoring’ approach: the client is able to draw upon the coach/ mentor’s own experience and expertise to enable to client to learn new strategies and resources to address their own challenges. Neither coaching nor mentoring should ever ‘tell’ the client what to do, or ‘does it for’ the client, however in reality that often happens in untrained mentoring relationships.
The European Mentoring and Coaching Council defines mentoring as: “Mentoring is a learning relationship, involving the sharing of skills, knowledge, and expertise between a mentor and mentee through developmental conversations, experience sharing, and role modelling. The relationship may cover a wide variety of contexts and is an inclusive two-way partnership for mutual learning that values differences.”
I offer mentoring for doctors, mentoring for medical leaders, and mentoring for public health leaders. I start with a coaching approach (to the left of the spectrum) and will invite you to also draw upon my own resources, technical skills and experiences. This allows me to provide mentoring for medical directors, mentoring for medics, and mentoring for GPs in a way which promotes their own autonomy, and also allows the doctor or public health leader to draw on my own professional background.
Career mentoring for doctors
Doctor’s careers are increasingly diverse and there are multiple different routes which a doctor can take during the course of their career. As a medical career mentor, I will often use a very specific form of career mentoring and career coaching, known as medical career counselling for doctors. Being a doctors career mentor requires additional training in addition to coaching and mentoring, to ensure that I am trained in specific medical career guidance evidence-based practice. General Practitioners, GPs, career mentoring is another specialised field of being a medics career mentor, enabling GPs to make the right career decisions for themselves.
Career mentoring for public health leaders
Like doctors, public health leaders careers are extremely diverse. Some public health specialists lead in international contexts, others within a hospital trust or local government.
I can help you with mentoring for your public health or medical career: as a partnership I will draw out your own learning and offer you the benefit of my own experience to enable you to do your own best work in the future.
Find out more about how I integrate coaching and mentoring through my coaching programmes: