A mentor is described as a trusted guide or advisor who is sometimes older but always more experienced, and is willing to help another individual develop his or her knowledge and skills. The history of this dates back to the days of Homer’s Odyssey. Odysseus’ friend was named Mentor, and he went to Troy to teach his son, Telemachus. A mentor is a teacher, in the true sense of the word.
My very first business mentor was Raymond Aaron, whom I now consider to be one of my closest friends and allies on the Internet and in my life. He has always been confident in his own expertise, and brings as much commitment to our relationship as I do. Without this expert mentoring and guidance I would never have had the courage to change my life in the ways that bring me so much joy today. I now also have several people in my life whom I consider to be my business and personal mentors. I look up to them and continue to grow and change based on our interactions.
You most likely have already experienced the supportive feeling of having a mentor, even if it was not a formal relationship. Think of a person in your life who was encouraging to you, someone you looked up to and respected, or someone you aspired to be like. This may have been one or both of your parents, or the parent of a close friend. It could have been a teacher, a coach, or a supervisor or boss at your job. Mentors are special people who give us examples to model ourselves after, and many times, they are able to guide us specifically with a skill set we need in order to be successful.
So, what’s the difference between a mentor and a coach?
Coaching has been defined by the International Coach Federation to be “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.” This concept first began to take off in the 1990s. Coaches most often work independently from organizations and help individuals, teams in a workplace, or specific groups of people to improve their relationships and grow stronger. This is different from mentoring in that mentors are more likely to spend more quality time with individuals with whom they share a common bond or goal.
A coach, unlike a mentor, does not need to have specific expertise in the business or profession of the client. The coach uses prior experience and knowledge to encourage the client to understand that they have choices, and that they may choose how they will respond rather than react to their personal situations. When people have more choice, they feel ownership and power. With feelings of ownership and power, they have more energy to move themselves forward towards their goals in ways that also honor their values and uniqueness. I consider what I do online to be mentoring, but it’s actually a combination of these two ideas.
Great mentors and coaches help others achieve their goals, practice the skills required to advance in their business and their life, to increase their self-awareness, and to create great lives overall. Both relationships are incredibly valuable, and although their focus is different, anyone would be lucky to experience the best of both worlds.
Who is your mentor?