When you get Agile literate, you clearly see the distinction between Coaching and Mentoring. While we can easily make a differentiation between the two by semantics and the English language, the subtlety of the variations that exist between the two can only be derived by engagement and experiential learning. This is where Agile chips in, for Agile is ‘learning on the go’. Let me amplify the same by highlighting the subtle differences between Coaching and Mentoring from an Agile perspective:
The Engagement Environment
Coaching is oriented towards the outcome of a specific skill or task. The focus is on specific, well-defined issues within a larger framework. For instance, to effectively manage workflow, team building and strategic thinking one would need a content expert (coach) who is capable of enabling the coachee on how to develop these skills within the larger framework of the organisational vision and project mission. Hence, the engagement is largely confined to the professional arena. Mentoring, on the other hand, is relationship dependent and the boundaries between personal and professional spaces get blurred. It establishes a safe environment where the mentee is free to express issues that affect his or her professional and personal space. Although specific learning goals or competencies may be used as a basis for creating the relationship, the mentoring engagement goes beyond the organisational environment and delves further into the realms of personal history, self-expression, self-actualisation, and self-esteem.
Coaching is sensitive to outcomes which need to be addressed on priority; time is of the essence to create desired states of nature. Coaching can be successfully delivered in a short time interval, maybe to address a specific issue over a few sessions. Coaching lasts for as long as is needed, depending on the purpose of the coaching intent established. Mentoring is time insensitive. Mentoring demands a certain level of maturity in the relationship, which is time-dependent where the intent is to first establish a common ground based on trust, compassion, and security. Successful mentoring relationships last for a year to a lifetime, often progressing into the latter.
Nature of Conduct
Coaching is performance-centric and transactional, with an aim to improve the competency and performance of the job for a remuneration/predetermined consideration. This involves either enhancing current capabilities or acquiring new skills to refine them for an agreed price. Once the coachee successfully acquires the necessary competence, the coach has fulfilled his transaction and is paid for it. Mentoring is growth-centric and transformational, with an aim to develop the individual capacities to meet an unforeseen and uncharted future. This distinction differentiates the role of the immediate superior and that of the mentor. It also mitigates the occurrence of any conflict between the employee’s superior and the mentor.
Feasibility of Structure
Coaching does not mandate a design structure. Coaching can be conducted in situ on any given topic. If a company seeks to provide coaching to a large group of individuals, a fair amount of design would then be required in order to determine competency areas, expertise need, and assessment tools. However, this does not necessarily require a long lead-time to actually implement the coaching program. Mentoring, on the other hand, requires a design phase in order to determine its core strategic purpose. Mentoring needs a structure to clearly establish and create the focus areas of the relationship, the specific mentoring models and the specific components that will govern the relationship, especially the initial matching process.
Scope of Involvement
The coachee’s immediate superior is a pivot in the coaching process. She or he communicates to the coach with appraisals and feedback on areas in which his or her employee is in need of coaching. The coach uses this involved information to help him structure the coaching process. In mentoring, the scope of the superior is limited in influence. Apart from offering suggestions to the employee on how to best use the mentoring experience or in providing recommendations to the matching committee on what would constitute a good match, the superior has no access to the mentor and they are not involved in any way in the mentoring relationship. This helps maintain the mentoring relationship’s objectivity and confidentiality.
Coaching Helps When
When the need is to develop specific competencies in a specific time period using performance management tools and involving the management.
When a situation arises where employees are not able to deliver on expected outcomes due to issues of perceptions and lack of empathy.
When it is time to orient mindsets and impose a belief change towards a new system or program.
To facilitate a small group of individuals in need of increased competency in core areas.
When an executive seeks assistance in acquiring a new skill as a value addition to his professional competencies.
Mentoring Helps When
There is a need for succession planning.
Removing cultural barriers which impinge on the functionality of employees.
When there is a need to transform employees into more accomplished and self-driven individuals.
When there is present a culture to nurture talent and create islands of excellence that will define the future of the company and the communities it impacts.
To fulfill the need to be more holistic and fulfilled in life and living.
As an Agile Coach, one to has to work as an Agile Coach and Mentor, and it should be about the clients outcome and agenda. Understanding the subtle difference between the Coach and the Mentor from an Agile perspective will enable the leader/business head to implement processes that would enable to achieve value driven objectives based on a sound culture of cohabitation and collaboration between all the working mechanisms of his business/enterprise.