You’ve probably heard the wise adage that no man or woman is an island? It’s undoubtedly true for entrepreneurs. Even the most talented and successful among us benefits from the help, wisdom and guidance of others.

More experienced mentors and coaches are an invaluable resource for younger and new entrepreneurs. The right feedback at a critical time can help turn a good business into a great one or help someone steer clear of a potential speed bump. Yet it’s important to recognize that while mentorship and coaching are related, they aren’t quite the same.

Let’s take a closer look at what separates the two.

Mentorship vs. Coaching: What sets them apart?

Duration is one of the primary differences between coaching and mentoring. Specifically, the former is generally shorter-term and designed to help someone meet targeted goals. Mentorship, on the other hand, is an ongoing relationship that can last years or even decades.

Coaching is also typically more structured and focused on specific areas of development. For example, an employee may need help learning how to navigate new procedures or protocols in the office. Or a CEO may need a hand getting up to speed on fast-moving changes in the industry. Once measurable progress is made, coaching may shift its focus or in some cases, end.

Mentors take a broader, more holistic view — one that’s focused on the long-term cultivation of skills and relationships. Mentors typically have a wide-ranging mandate in terms of supporting someone develop overall strategy or long term vision, rather than the more targeted goal setting in a specific area of focus associated with coaching. Because of this, mentors may have a more broad-based repertoire of success and have achieved success in several areas, allowing them to understand the bigger picture… whereas a coach may have a very specific area of expertise. In fact, a mentor may even recommend a coach in a particular area of weakness.

Do I need coaching or mentoring?

The answer to this question depends on what stage you’re currently in and what personal as well as professional objectives you wish to accomplish. Are you looking for growth in a specific competency or support in achieving a short term goal? If the answer is yes, you may want to seek out a coach. If you are looking for longer term entrepreneurial and relationship development or life management, a mentor may be a better option.

Once you’re deeply experienced or an expert in your own right, your knowledge and experience will be able to benefit others should you choose to serve as a coach or mentor.

The takeaway

Although coaching and mentoring may seem similar, they are very different. Understanding how they differ will allow you to seek the right type of support in your own journey to success.  It is never to early or too late to leverage the knowledge and guidance of others. Business and life are team sports. Whether you choose to pursue a coach or a mentor, I hope you enjoy the game!

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