A coach is not a mentor. Both coaches and mentors are important for success and increased performance, however, I think there is a common misconception within the business world and professional coaching community. This is more true to me in the personal development and life coaching world, where I see many successful professionals toting their new landing pages to gain coaching clients, promising that they will be your mentor and teach you how to be as successful as them.
The rug pulled out
The problem is: many of these people are not trying to define their roles, and end up promising two things when they only provide one.
Defining the roles
Let’s define the two roles to see what differentiates them. A mentor is someone with experience in their field who has reached a higher performance level than their mentee. The mentor acts as an informal instructor and wise-man to the mentee by giving advice and showing what pathways they used to create their own success. Mentorship is also a relationship in which the mentee seeks to gain knowledge and skills passed down from the role model mentor, and in which the mentor seeks to pass their knowledge to a new generation. In a way, a mentorship is based around the concept of mastery and the learning, thus creating an intrinsic motivation in the mentee.
On the other hand, a coach is someone who provides a service of motivation and a plan of action to help you achieve your goals and improve your performance. A coach’s function may be through maintaining accountability to verify that goals are being set and achieved. Coaches also help their clients create systems to ensure growth and success, as well as help them organize their thoughts and work to create higher levels of motivation. Lastly, coaches can train clients in tangential skills, such as psychological skill training, which can be used for increased performance, but are not limited to that specific task.
A coach relationship is based more around the coach’s effort to help increase performance in their client. The coach does not have to be as skilled in the specific discipline of their client, or at all for that matter. For example, many excellent sport coaches have previous performance careers which are overshadowed by their clients. A prime example would be boxing coach Freddie Roach and his client Manny Pacquiao. Though Roach is Pacquiao’s coach, Pacquiao’s boxing career (59-6-2 with 8 division world championship titles) completely overshadows that of Roach (40-13 with no titles).
So what’s this mean?
I am of the conviction that a coach doesn’t need to have specific skills related to the performance of their client, they just need to come up with creative ways of improving that client’s performance. In other words, a good player does not a coach make. However, a mentor needs to have a record of experience and must have more knowledge than their mentee.
If you’re looking to improve your performance, know of these two resources for increasing your output. I think both are important for achieving success, but don’t confuse the two.