The terms business mentor and business coach are frequently used interchangeably.
But, at the Top management level, ie Business Owners or CEO level, a Business Mentor is clearly distinguishable from a Business Coach.
This post has been specifically designed to address the difference between the two.
Having said that, in some instances a very experienced indepenent expert can fulfil both those roles.
The duration of the mentoring relationship will depend on the rapport that the Mentor and Mentee build in the earlier stages.
Both sides must be comfortable with it and it must be mutually beneficial (not just financially)
Some business mentoring relationships last a lifetime, whilst others last for only a short time if the mentee’s need is to reach a specific goal or objective. Or if either party “opts out”
It can be more informal than business coaching, and meetings can take place as and when the client needs advice, guidance or support, at short notice. Although a regular review meeting should ideally be scheduled for at least once a month.
Client would most often be CEO/Owner, or any other “C Level” Executive where the CEO/Owner has approved the appointment.
The business mentors role is usually to pass on his or her experience in relation to any issues, or concerns the client has, both specific to the business, or non-work-related matters if the client wishes to discuss them, especially if they are having an impact on their focus and performance in the business
The business mentor would most often be older than the client, and should be an independent expert with extensive high- level business experience from outside the company, or possibly an experienced non- executive board-member.
The former could be more acceptable to the executive being mentored in a number of ways.
- Executive (Client) may be more comfortable that there is no potential conflict of interest.
- Once the client becomes comfortable their mentor, he or she is likely to open-up to them as they are not an employee or officer of the company or a related entity. Also because a level of trust has been built.
The focus is on career and personal development
Agenda is set by the client with the mentor providing support and guidance on any strategic issues the mentee wants input on from an independent and trusted advisor.
Revolves more around developing the client professionally.
The client/business coach relationship generally has a set duration and is generally more structured in nature than mentorship
Meetings are scheduled in advance
Business coaching assignments are normally short-term and focused on specific development areas/issues and achieving specific, immediate goals.
The Business coach does not necessarily need direct experience of the client’s specific occupational role, and there may be group sessions on a subject of common interest (e.g. The Top Management Team)
Assignments focus generally on development projects and specific issues at work (as opposed to non-work-related issues)
When thinking about how the differences affect you, here’s my advice: don’t worry about it.
It doesn’t really matter what you call it, and both approaches have the ultimate aim of providing support to enable a leader to become more comfortable, confident and capable in their leadership role.
One of the most important things you can do as a leader is to find someone you can discuss complex and significant issues with, and this can come in the form of a coach, a mentor, or a combination of both.
Sometimes you’ll need your coach or mentor to ask difficult questions in a supportive way, and giving unbiased feedback.
At other times you’ll require someone with experience and wisdom, who can point you in a particular direction or suggest a strategy.
These different approaches may even come in the form of the same person, who can tailor their approach to various contexts.