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Meiss Education Institute

Mentoring, Coaching, Counseling: Are They the Same or Different?
By Rich Meiss

Coaching, Mentoring and Counseling
Are They the Same, or Different?

In the corporate world in which we train and consult, terms are often used interchangeably, confusing the issue of how to get the best results. For example, we’ve found that the words presenting, training and facilitating are often used to mean the same thing, but their definitions, skill sets and outcomes are quite different. The same could be said for coaching, mentoring and counseling – while the terms are often used interchangeably, they have different meanings and different outcomes. Full article

Because of the need to achieve greater results, create succession plans and develop employees to their full potential, and minimize mental health care costs, many companies today are including coaching, mentoring and counseling as a regular part of employee benefits. What these programs all have in common is that they employ some type of communication process between two people – a giver and a receiver - to achieve certain desired outcomes or objectives. They also are designed for the good of the receiver – to create benefits for him or her. Coaching, mentoring and counseling are quite different in many ways, however. Here is a look at how these terms are unique, and how the skills to perform them successfully differ.

Coaching – In organizational life, coaching is a process used by an authority figure (often a boss or supervisor) with a subordinate (often an employee or team member) to help get better results while also helping the coachee grow. The coach works with the coachee to set goals, and then through a process of encouraging, re-directing, and modeling helps the coachee to get better results. The focus for the coachee is on both results and growth. The skills the coach needs include communicating, directing, encouraging, re-directing and giving feedback.

Mentoring – Mentoring is the process of sharing knowledge or experience by a mentor with a protégé, or mentee. The mentor usually has no direct supervisory role with the mentee, and the mentee is often given the choice of selecting his/her own mentor. The mentee usually sets his/her own goals, and the mentor then becomes a confidant, teacher and advisor In assisting in the accomplishment of those goals. The focus for the mentee is generally on personal and career development. The skills the mentor needs include communicating, teaching, sharing experiences and advising.

Counseling – Counseling is a process whereby the counselor helps the counselee solve problems or make decisions, often in the areas of personal and business challenges. The counselee has his/her own goals in mind and selects his/her own counselor who, through a process of asking questions and listening, helps the counselee come to his/her own decisions. The focus for the counselee is making better decisions and resolving personal or business problems. The skills the counselor needs include communicating, asking effective questions, listening actively, and non-directive counseling.

The attached chart gives an effective overview of the uniquenesses and commonalities of these three areas. Coaching, Mentoring and Counseling are Different.

Coaching, Mentoring and Counseling are Different
Coaching Mentoring Counseling
On performance
On learning/development On problem solving and decision making
Performance to be enhanced
Learning to take place Problems/issues to be solved
Comes with the job
Self selected or assigned Self selected
Coach, boss
Mentor, advisor Counselor, confidant
Coach sets the agenda
Mentee sets the agenda Agenda mutually discovered by counselor and counselee
Sets goals, advises and critiques
Teaches, advises and prods Asks, listens and facilitates
Follows suggestions, tries suggested methods
Asks, listens, learns and experiments Shares problems and feelings and tries new ideas
Teamwork, performance
Affirmation, learning Problems solved, decision made
Job and organization
Work and Life Life and home


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