By Marie Taylor, Steve Crabb

Think of business coaching and mentoring as the use of a professional skill set where the well-trained coach doesn’t need to have experience of a particular type of business, specific leadership role, or experience in the same functional area as the person being coached.

  • The coach is using a set of skills and experiences to help the client find solutions and make sense of things from the client’s own resources.
  • The mentor, sometimes called the trusted adviser, uses coaching skills to help a mentee explore situations. The mentor draws on her experience, know-how, and wisdom to help someone plan or manage similar situations.
  • Both coach and mentor enable their clients.

You might be asking yourself if it’s possible to be both. The answer is yes. You can coach executives on aspects of business and mentor coaches looking to establish their coaching and training practice.

If you’re a mentor who has fallen into mentoring because your experience, skills, and knowledge are in demand, get some coaching skills. From our experience, this training is the difference that makes the difference.

Some leaders have a number of mentors or a mentor-and-coach combination. This situation can be helpful in specific short-term circumstances. We’ve seen a few leaders over the years who are overdoing it on the coaching and mentoring support. This overload can have the opposite effect. It can create an indecisive client who is lost in an advisory muddle. The responsibility for avoiding this situation lies with everyone: the leader, mentors, and coaches.

To avoid any confusion about who’s giving your prospective client advice, make sure your contracting includes a check about what formal and informal mentoring and coaching the person already has in place. The boundaries of these relationships should be discussed upfront at the contracting stage.

This ensures you’re aware of who else is giving the person advice and guidance; they may take a different view or approach from you. Knowing this can help you decide if you want to work with the client; it also helps you manage your own boundaries if and when your client says, “Ah, well, my mentor, Jim, disagrees with your approach because… .”

Enabling others to be more authentically who they are and increase their capacity to lead isn’t a competitive sport.