Do you need a mentor, coach or teacher?

Having been in the privileged position this year (2020) to be simultaneously both a mentor and a mentee I have been reflecting on what these roles mean, and the value they both can bring to your career… If done right.

I’ve seen first hand what happens when expectations for the roles are not met by both parties. The frustrated mentee who schedules her mentor like a teacher only to find her meetings declined and the annoyed mentor who can’t get her mentee to take the initiative on owning her learning, never mind the meeting agenda.

In response to these often interchangeable terms I put together a simple matrix to make the different dynamics clear. 

Don’t seek a mentor when you need a teacher, and don’t try to mentor when its clear your mentee needed a coach.

Some of the most important differences between coaching and mentoring are:

GuideMentoringCoachingTeachers
Relationship Type & DurationOngoing relationship that can last for a long time. To be really successful, the mentor and mentee need to develop ‘rapport’.  They often become friends. Both the mentee and mentor benefit  from the relationship.

Relationship generally has a short duration. ‘Rapport’ is not so important, although the client needs to be comfortable with being ‘open and honest’. The mentee benefits most from the relationship, though the coach can be paid.

Relationship are a  shorter duration. Rapport is not needed. Emotional comfortable is not required.The pupil benefits almost exclusively from the  teachers knowledge.The Teacher commonly extracts a wage.
Frequency StructureCan be more informal and meetings can take place as and when the mentee needs some guidance and or support.Generally more structured in nature and meetings will be scheduled on a regular basis.Classes or time is scheduled at a regular cadence. 
Agenda OwnerAgenda is set by the mentee with the mentor providing support and guidance to prepare them for future roles or specific skills development. The mentee takes the responsibility of topic and learning.Agenda is set by the client and is focused on achieving specific, immediate goals. The coach can prompt the client within the bounds of the agreed topic. Ownership lies with the coach to point the mentee into self-discovery.Teacher owns the learning agenda, and takes the responsibility to teach. Learning and homework is  expected to be completed by the pupil.
TopicsRevolves more around developing the mentee professionally, particularly regarding their skills and their application to the specific work context.Revolves more around specific personal development areas/issues, perhaps related to behaviour, attitudes or self-awareness.Pre-determined, set, and follows a structure beginning to end.
Length of timeMore long term and takes a broader view of the person. Often known as the ‘mentee’ but the term client or mentored person can be used.Short-term (sometimes time bounded) and focused on specific current development areas/issues. Goals are worked on often  in a time frame.Classes are complete at a set time known in advance. 
*(From the Association of project management)

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