Is there a difference between a mentor and a coach?

It is undeniable that the hype around coaching and mentoring is real: people hear a lot about both things, especially under today’s fast-paced and stressful circumstances. However, as the saying says, plenty of people have managed to go further that they thought they could just because someone else firmly believed they could. Although the terminology, and the words «mentoring» and «coaching», are seemingly—and often used—interchangeable, reality dictates otherwise; however, one thing is certain: both mentors and coaches can get to be highly meaningful and worthwhile resources. But, what is the difference between these two? And, moreover, how can people know which one they really need?

compass_guide_mentor_coach
Image courtesy of Pixabay at Pexels.com

Suzzanne Uhland has already mentioned valuable things about mentoring and different approaches to finding the right one irrespective of the stage; nonetheless, it is wise to first determine the distinction between mentors and coaches. Normally, or at least how tradition has previously shown, mentors were commonly assigned within a corporate organization to help its employees get acquainted with their roles. Today, and as of the emergence of the fourth industrial revolution and the digital era, mentors have shifted towards a more holistic approach and act as mere advisers regardless of whether they receive any kind of compensation or not.

Today’s most common connotation around mentors is that they embody successful persons who are always willing to share what they have learned and the wisdom they have acquired throughout their lives to provide accurate and useful insights to entrepreneurs and pretty much anyone willing to listen. One key aspect, nonetheless, is that they function differently: they always stay in a reactive-expecting position, helping people once they come across any sort of challenge. Thus, and even though a mentor may not have enough expertise in the mentee’s field, they are quite proficient at navigating the corporate world and the business field.

And that is an overall view of the mentoring end. Coaches, on the other hand, often have enough expertise in a particular field, and most of the times such expertise matches the field of the people they are helping. In general, coaches possess several certifications and strong and solid management skills. In the corporate world, coaches play a vital role in supporting different CEOs or venture capitalists as well as entrepreneurs. Their main function is to help them foresee any possible challenge in the upcoming future and come up with effective ideas on how to proceed and tackle them as they arise. Their nature, all in all, is somewhat proactive: coaches definitely enjoy participating and coming up with ideas that may help their customers and their coachees.

The intricacies of the relationship between a mentor and a mentee are rather open-ended: it can last for decades, whereas regular and traditional coaching happens for one specific reason, and once the issue has been addressed or solved, the relationship normally ends.

Which seems like the wisest choice?

After considering the aforementioned aspects in regard to the different intricacies of both relationships, people should already know which type of relationship suits them best and which would serve a much greater purpose; nonetheless, it is wise to consider the following aspects as well:

working_planning_mentoring program
Image courtesy of Unsplash at Pexels.com

Consider where are you now

Perhaps, one of the greatest factors, if not the most important, is the stage of the journey. An entrepreneurship enthusiast seeking to thrive in her or his business often needs a mentor who can provide guidance as to how to overcome basic challenges and how to tackle the issues that often arise when establishing a business. At this point, a mentor seems to be quite a good choice given the fact that they can provide a much wider spectrum of advice and connections that might come in handy for the business. As businesses grow, they tend to get more uncanny, and issues become more nuanced than in early stages. Once the business has reached this point, working alongside a coach seems a much better idea, especially if the coach also happens to work in the same industry; thus, the coachee will get a much better perspective towards the future.

Name your needs

Irrespective of the stage of the journey, if a particular individual has already identified a specific need, the wisest choice leans towards working alongside a coach. 

For example, if a startup or an already-established company is experiencing corporate development difficulties, which in turn prevent the company from scaling its business, a coach with expertise in such field will certainly be much better; however, if the same individual has not identified and named specific needs, and all she or he needs is proper guidance, a mentor would serve a much better purpose.

 

 

 

 

The Best Uses For Technology In Mentoring Inside Today’s Workplace

Today more than ever, technology is a present influence in every single aspect of our lives. We are using it to stay in touch with those who are far away, it helps us make our jobs a lot easier, we can entertain ourselves but also study, learn and have knowledge about the world we live in, available right at our fingertips.

How Does Digital Technology Affect You?_mentoring_business leadership
Image courtesy of Scott Schopieray at Flickr.com

That ubiquitous nature of technology has made it so that we always try to find ways to fit it into all of our activities and figure out how we can enhance the way we interact with the things that surround us. When it comes to mentoring, the situation is no difference, as a matter of fact it becomes more than simply a choice that we may feel inclined to consider, it is something absolutely necessary in order to fully take advantage of the tools at our disposal and how we can use them to give mentoring a wider reach and a more effect application. Technology can affect mentoring at the personal level, meaning where the rubber meets the road and the mentor and mentee actually convene to look at realistic work plans to go about achieving their goals. New technological advances are also crucial when it comes to putting together a mentoring program for a company, as these important resources will shape the way the program works, how participants are matched and what sort of impact can be expected from being part of this initiative.

Convenience is one of the main factors that technology enhances and brings with it when involved in mentoring. Starting for example with the breakdown of geographical barriers, as mentor and mentee do not have to be in the same place in order to work together. The location is no longer a hindrance when it comes to finding a mentor, or even a group of mentors that can help someone achieve its goals and grow. Not having to stay in one place in order to receive guidance can help mentees use their time wisely and dedicate energy to their mentoring process that would otherwise be wasted with traveling, or by settling under the wing of one mentor that can only help them with one area of their process. The convenience of technology can allow you to have a coach that can help you find balance with the way you handle your personal affairs and creativity, while also giving you the chance of having a professional relationship with another mentor who aids you with career advancement within your own field of work.

Another great advantage that technology brings to the world of mentorships is the way that it has made communication between people so seamlessly. Constant communication between mentor and mentee is one of the cornerstones of a successful professional relationship and nothing has revolutionized the way we communicate like the new technologies. Today you can have video meetings on the go, send pictures, files, videos and audio files with a tool that you can both carry inside your pockets and that keeps you connected to the largest network in existence. Communication within the new technologies are erasing any type of issues that could have arisen in earlier times when planning how to maintain mentorships partners connected.

Reports, documents, and files pertaining the mentoring process can also be accessed by partners with a simple click through one of the many cloud services that make them editable by all parties involved and immediately update any changes made to them. Remember that having a well-placed system for gauging progress can sometimes be just as important as the progress itself

Training is another aspect that has changed so much and so quickly, that we can laugh today by thinking of our reactions if we were told 15 years ago, that you could find so much training, resources and research material online and that you could access all of it from your phone. Companies are understanding this and seeing the great benefits that it brings to their employees. E-learning paired with mentoring programs that are relevant and that take advantage of technology are great not just for the mentees, but also for mentors who in most cases, are people susceptible to continue using time-tested practices but tend to ignore technological breakthroughs that could exponentially enhance their own methods.

technology_business leadership_mentoring
Image courtesy of Cathy at Flickr.com

Technology breaches the gap that sometimes appears when we talk about mentoring being a two-way street, as younger generations are better adapting to the changes innovation brings about and can contribute to the partnerships by coming up with strategies and ways to use those technologies to make the most out of the mentorship. Working together to find these strategies is an excellent exercise for participants and also a great way to adjust your mentorship to benefit all parties involved at the moment, and perhaps even those who will come afterwards.

For more great articles on mentoring and how you can make it work for you, check out our publications at Suzzanne Uhland’s Blog.

The Reasons Why Mentorship Programs Fail

Mentoring programs are becoming more and more popular as organizations continue to see the great advantages they can bring to their individual members and their company integrity as a whole. Mentoring relationships help junior employees find guidance, direction and a practical way to direct their efforts towards the advancement of their professional career and also their personal endeavors. Senior members can also find great benefits from being part of a mentoring program as they can hone their own leadership skills, learn new abilities and widen their network while making a real difference in someone else’s life. Companies see a lower turnover and a higher index of job satisfaction amongst employees when they introduce mentoring programs into the organization. So why is it that something that is so positive for all parties involved sometimes fails? What are the most common mistakes organizations make when establishing their mentorship programs? That is the topic we will look in depth today here, in Suzzanne Uhland’s blog.

Frustrated
Image courtesy of Michael Sauers at Flickr.com

One of the most common mistakes made at the time of creating a mentoring program can happen right from the start. This mistake is a lack of a balance in structure. Remember in our other article when we talked about the necessary steps to take when creating a mentoring program? We mentioned that right from the beginning, you must set clear goals and try planning exactly what you want to accomplish with the initiative. With that being said, you start to create a structure that will make those goals become attainable and that structure has to be based on the type of mentors and mentees that you are going to have as participants of the program. You have to understand that different individuals have diverse preferences and communication styles. Sometimes, the person in charge of the program fails to take that into consideration and their structure ends up lacking in flexibility or sometimes it even becomes so relax that it could be considered inexistent. The trick is to reach a balance in the structure that helps those who need to maintain their discipline and that doesn’t get in the way of those who are more organized and are able to better manage their time.

Another big mistake to keep in mind is poor training given to mentors and mentees. The problem is that some organizations feel that all they have to do is give people the opportunity to team up and they stop there. That is not the way you go about making sure that your mentorships are successful because you are abandoning your people to their own devices and failing them as an organization. Sometimes there are external factors like geographical constraints that make it difficult to gather your people and have them attend training sessions, but there are other ways of getting it done using the latest technologies. In order to keep your program alive, you must nurture its most crucial aspect and that is the human component.

Poor matching is perhaps one of the main reasons why mentoring relationships fail. Matching criteria must go hand-to-hand with the purpose of the program. The problem is that sometimes that purpose is so vague that people fail to understand what they are looking for in a partner to start a mentoring relationship. You cannot blame your participants if you left them to choose blindly the person they are going to work with.

If the purpose of your program is clear, then you can identify possible candidates and start matching them before the initiative even begins. It is true that in most cases you want partnerships to be formed in a very organic way, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t some planned component to it. Like we have said a few times before, it’s all about balance and finding the perfect dose of structure and freedom to choose.

women_mentoring program_business
Image courtesy of Tim Gouw at Pexels.com

The last factor we are going to explore is the lack of clear benchmarks for success. This happens very often with companies that are hasty to start a mentoring program to meet some expectations but fail to realize the true responsibilities that come along with it and ignore the fact that the road to success is made out of many small stations along the way. Benchmarks are small goals that help track success and that motivate participants because it allows them to clearly map their improvement. Success must be measured and gauged so it can be repeated and so effective practices can be studied in order to implement them in other areas of the program.

This last part because an issue because sometimes organizations rush towards an end goal but forget that when it comes to mentoring it isn’t so clearly cut. What works for some may not be so evident for others, and while something may be seen like the norm in a company, it can be new territory to others.

 

Great Ways For Improving Your Mentoring Skills

Effective mentoring is an art, a science, a set of skills and a matter of constantly working on it to become better each day. The first step to becoming and a great mentor and remaining so, is to accept and understand that the mentoring process is a journey and not simply a patch that works every time and that is equally effective in all situations. Proper mentoring is about adapting and constantly adjusting to different surroundings, various people and the never-ending business landscape that changes at a pace that is usually set by your particular line of work and the external factors that are constantly forcing that environment to evolve. Being a great mentor means understanding change and adjusting accordingly, while at the same time being able to identify how your experience best translates to the new challenges placed upon young professionals today and how you are also affected by that evolution and the need to remain relevant as well.

partner_mentorship_mentoring-skills
Image courtesy of jimpg2_2015 at Flickr.com

Here in Suzzanne Uhland’s Blog, we try to provide you with the best mentoring advice that includes not only the basis on how to form this great relationship, but also help you find ways to improve your mentoring skills constantly and avoid remaining stagnant in such a fast moving environment.

Let us take a look at some of the best ways you can improve your mentoring skills and continue to exercise techniques that will allow you to always be ready to provide the best possible advice for those whom you take under your wing.

Always evaluate your own attitude towards mentoring.

Mentoring is definitely not for everyone. Leading a mentoring relationship is about the experience but more than anything is about attitude. Do you have the right attitude to mentor? Perhaps in this moment you do, but what about tomorrow? It is easy to fall in the routine and let mentoring become something that you will end up doing in autopilot, but is that the best you can give to those who look up to you for direction?

Being a mentor is about sacrifice and patience, and that means that it may take a toll on you with the passing of time. A responsible mentor always surveys their inner self to see if they are up to the challenge before getting involved in a mentoring relationship because they understand that their attitude is one of the most important aspects that determines the outcome of the partnership. Know your limits and be fair with your mentees.

Choose your mentees wisely.

Understand that while almost everyone can benefit from having a mentor, no mentor is right for every single situation. Choosing your mentees carefully will not only benefit them to get the most out of the partnership but it will also help you greatly to be benefited as well. Remember mentoring is a two-way street and a mutually beneficial mentorship is the best type of relationship you can have. In the end, you will both be grateful that your choice was deliberate and consciously made.

Understand the importance of the mentoring contract.  

It is up to both of you how formal your mentoring contract ends up being, however, there are some important points that every mentoring contract should be absolutely clear about. Experience is something you will only receive with due time, however, the use of tools and the understanding of their importance like in the case of the mentoring contract, is something that will go a long way on improving your own mentoring skills. The mentoring contract has to be specific about how long you two will work together. Very seldom you can give this contract a specific amount of time, as it is easier and more beneficial to decide the length of the relationship based on the goals that you wish to achieve. Identifying and agreeing upon those goals is where your experience becomes so useful. Sometimes mentees are not even sure how they can measure their own success and how they can judge that they are advancing or not, towards the goals they have set for themselves. It is your duty as the mentor to motivate them and help them see their own advancement in times when they become discouraged.

respect_mentoring
Image courtesy of Patrick Marioné at Flickr.com

Be committed to the relationship and expect that same level of commitment back.

Always be respectful of your meetings and the time you set aside for each other. Sometimes it becomes very easy to cancel meetings or postpone them for later dates. This can become a problem as it can turn into a habit and quickly damage the relationship while possibly losing all that has been accomplished so far. Avoid multitasking and instead, try to respect your time together as something sacred for both of you. These will instill discipline not only on your mentee but on you as well, something that will definitely help you greatly in your path of becoming a better mentor. Each person that you help will teach you lessons and add more tools to your arsenal so you can be prepared even better for the next challenge.

The Best Qualities That A Mentor Should Have.

A good mentoring relationship is an outstanding tool to help new employees and young professionals in the field to make sense of many of the hurdles and challenges they will face in an always-changing business world. Are newcomers the only ones that can be benefited by a mentorship? Absolutely not, mentoring is something that can help anyone at any level of the organization who feels like they could benefit from the advice and guidance of someone who is more experienced and whose opinion they value and find particularly helpful in their career advancement. Here in Suzzanne Uhland’s, we have previously talked about the most important aspects to consider when choosing a mentor, so today we want to focus on the mentor’s side and discuss what we consider are the best qualities a mentor should have in order to be the most qualified person for the job and truly make an impact on the life of those he takes under his wing. These are some of the most important qualities a mentor should have, listed in no particular order.

imagine-cup_mentoring_mentorship_communication-skilss
Image courtesy of ImagineCup at Flickr.com

Willingness to share

A mentor is someone who is already considered an expert in his field or area of expertise, but this expertise and professional accomplishments are not useful unless there is a willingness and ability to share them with mentees. A good mentor is aware and understands what it’s like to start out in the field and that is why they are the most qualified person to serve a guide to those who seek their professional and personal advancement. Mentors are not selfish and they do not hold back information as they share everything they deem relevant to help their mentees get ahead.

Always prepared

A mentor takes their role seriously and understands the serious commitment they must have to their mentees and their process. Preparing for each session is just one aspect of their readiness, as they must be prepared to answer all questions and find strategies to tackle possible challenges alongside their protégés. A great mentor is respectful of their responsibility and knows that they must be ready to guide the sessions and not let them become a simple process of answering questions and giving feedback. The mentor must be prepared in such way that they can answer questions about topics the mentee may be interested in pursuing or have questions about.  

A real interest in the mentoring relationship

Like we mentioned before, a great mentor does not take their responsibility lightly and that is why they are absolutely invested in the success of their mentee. A great mentor understands their effect in the relationship with their mentee and are interested in making the best possible impact they can accomplish. They understand that success is shared between both parties and they make everything within their ability to provide their mentee with an empowering mentoring relationship while at the same time continuing their own personal growth and becoming even more knowledgeable within their own field.

Effective communication skills

One of the most important things a mentor can do is always provide guidance and nurturing feedback. Effective communication skills mean being able to get your message across while at the same time being honest with your mentee. This area is one of the most valued in a mentoring relationship, as it is important to receive feedback in order to be able to identify your own strengths and weaknesses, and thus creating a plan to follow to address those shortcomings.  

Curiosity and eagerness to learn

A great mentor understands the need to continue learning and to stay away from stagnation. A person who is at a place in their career where they can no longer grow and do not have any higher aspirations will not make a good mentor because they lack the understanding for continuous improvement of their personal and professional persona. Another thing to keep in mind is the fact that a good mentor must stay in touch with what goes on in the industry and stay on top of new changes and the way such industry transforms with time. All of this knowledge is highly important and must be always be present within the mentor’s way of approaching the mentoring relationship.

woman-hand-desk-office_curiosity_learning
Image courtesy of Kaboompics // Karolina at Pexels.com

Respected by others in the organization

Mentees look up to mentors for being the one filling the roles they want to occupy later within the organization. A person with a great reputation and that is respected by peers and subordinates alike is someone whose opinion will matter to a mentee. Someone whose work is valued within the company is a great example for mentees to follow because this person can have a great insight into what it takes to be successful in such way that the people around you admire you. One of the things we have mentioned time and again is the importance of setting a great example for those you lead, and there are few things that can testify for a great example to follow than those who have earned the respect of those around them.  

Better individuals, better professionals

In today’s evolving corporate juncture, mentors embody a great beneficial resource, since they are capable of narrowing the gap between what is known and what is to be learnt. Although having a mentor might seem as a one-sided relationship —given the fact that mentors are the ones who commonly provide a word of advice, provide answers to complex questions, etc.—, in reality, such relationship ought to be seen as mutually enriching.

people-apple-iphone-writing_mentor_mentee_mentorship
Image courtesy of Unsplash at Pexels.com

Suzzanne Uhland has openly written about the magnificence of benefiting from what a mentor has to offer regardless of the scenario: a good mentor can actually bring something good to a vast majority of aspects, whether personal or professional (or both, for this matter). By understanding that the bond people establish with their mentors are at the very least mutually beneficial, such relationship will result in the inexorable improvement of both their knowledge and expertise in a specific field. Mentors strive to provide the highest amount of answers relevant to a specific job, however, in order for this to happen, not only it is necessary to disregard the belief that such bond is one-sided, but also to acknowledge the importance of becoming a good student (or mentee, in such case). By paying special attention to what the mentor says, and by always being willing to accept their advice on what to do to attain success, the likelihood to achieve goals in the long run while gaining more experience and becoming more proficient in a specific field increase. Nevertheless, as in every other relationship, it has to be nurtured, which is why it becomes highly important to show the mentor commitment to always follow their recommendations.

good-advice_mentoring_mentorship
Image courtesy of jen collins at Flickr.com

Be that as it may, and having stressed the perks of establishing an enriching relationship with a mentor, it is also necessary to become proficient in realizing whether the person that seems to be a good choice is really capable of providing the information required. Hence the importance of assessing whether such persons might result in something positive.

Bear in mind that people who have chosen to be mentors are always willing to help others —no mentor has become a mentor without willingly agreeing to lend a helping hand when needed. Mentors always strive to share what they know and their experiences; they are willing to teach, and moreover, they are concerned that their mentees learn: mentors show interest in regards to their mentee’s personal and professional development, as they fondly remember that they also started that way.

The idea behind mentoring is to make people better professionals and better individuals at the same time. Mentors consider that their mentees might as well become mentors in the future, which is why most of them stress the importance of having a positive attitude towards life and work; they fondly nurture their mentee’s personal attributes so that they can develop what it takes to be successful in both the personal and professional field. By teaching their mentees the specific behaviors and attitudes required to dwell with expertise within a given field, they are making sure that in the future their students will be a positive role model.

As readers imagine, the responsibility behind becoming a mentor ought to not be taken lightly: the mentee is everything. In the same way, mentors also pay special attention to whether the person asking for help is actually willing to receive it. Mentees should be open to having their mentors be around since they are people with excellent communications skills striving to share their knowledge in a compassionate way. Think of them as school teachers or even trainers. A school teacher is always willing to help their students become better individuals by empowering them to develop their own strengths and personal attributes.

Remember: mentors are often one step ahead; they are in a position to accurately show how a specific field is evolving and changing as time passes by, nonetheless, they never lose their will to learn —as there will always be new things from which knowledge can be acquired—. Mentors seek to provide guidance to those who feel stagnant or stuck in both their lives and their professions, therefore, as a mentee, value fondly what they will be offering, as it is not in vain that they have gone a long way preparing themselves for this specific moment: they have spent hours and energy learning and becoming better at what they do for living, which ultimately turns out to be their passion.

Nevertheless, perhaps the most significant characteristic of a good mentor is their ease of conveying information in a constructive manner. Such aspect must not be go unnoticed by mentees, as this is the way their mentors will help them overcome their weaknesses and develop their strengths in a way that they can successfully become more proficient in their fields.

The Most Important Things You Should Consider When Choosing A Mentor

Surviving in the professional world can be quite daunting sometimes. It may feel like you are alone dealing with a world much bigger than yourself in which you may feel abandoned, inconsequential and insignificant. Sometimes it may be difficult to get your bearings and decide where to go next and how to make the tough decisions that will affect your professional future and even the future of your other team members. It doesn’t matter who you are or at what point of your career you may find yourself, a mentor is one of the most powerful tools at your disposal to help you navigate uncertainty.

choose_mentor_mentoring
Image courtesy of Tony Webster at Flickr.com

Here at Suzzanne Uhland’s blog, we have talked about the great advantages of having a mentor and the ways the can help you boost your career advancement. Even though the practice of mentorship is a mutual process that cannot be rushed or monopolized by only one of the parties, it is very useful if at least one of them is informed about the skills, attitude, and expectations that should be observed when getting involved in a mentor-mentee relationship. For the mentor is important to self-evaluate and see if they are up to the task of holding such a responsibility and for the mentee is crucial to understand how to make the most out of the bond so it can be as mutually beneficial as possible.

Let’s take a look then at some of the most important aspects to consider, when choosing a mentor or when deciding to become one.

Success is a good indicator of the right mentor.

Success comes with a price and that price is more often than not, paid with dedication and hard work. A mentor is someone you should look up to, and therefore they must have achieved a level of distinction within their field that you want to emulate to some degree. Look for a person who is already at a place where you want to be yourself, either professionally or personally. Remember that being successful is much more than being wealthy or having a great position within a company. You must also weigh in other aspects that you consider make a person admirable in your eyes and successful within your own personal parameters of achievement.

Mentoring is a two-way street.

Understand this is a reciprocal relationship and both parties should give as much as themselves as they are receiving from their partner. A mentor is a human being and just like their mentees, they are not a finished product, they still have much to learn from other aspects in life. Even just the fact that they are mentoring someone is a very rewarding and challenging opportunity to learn. Some people wrongfully believe that the mentee’s job is to receive while the mentor gives and gives; nothing could be further from the truth as the right partnership involves both parties giving and receiving.

pexels-photo-102644_mentor_two-way-street
Image courtesy of Unsplash at Pexels.com

Choose someone who is different from you.

A mentor is a person whose life and achievements you value, this could be in the personal as well as on the professional spectrum. Seeking for a mentor that can help you in different aspects of your life is the best way to get the most out of your partnership. Mentors can be people who help you be healthier, to learn a new skill and also someone who can be part of your professional world and help you get ahead in that particular aspect.

Have more than one choice.

You do not have to go with the first person that interests you as a mentor. You can meet several people and evaluate each of them individually to make the best choice. Remember this is a partnership that you want to keep for a long time and it is important to be informed and well educated on the matter before you make a decision. Take your time and evaluate your options as you will have many.

Find someone with more experience than you.

The purpose of a mentorship is to find someone who can guide you and instruct you based on his or her experience in the field that you want to improve. Working with someone who has the same experience as you can be a great opportunity to discover new things together, but that is not a mentorship. If you are interested in a mentor-mentee dynamic then you must work with someone who is more experienced than you in order to take advantage of that experience.

Trust is key.

The relationship of a mentor and his or her mentee must be based on mutual trust and total confidence. Understand that your conversations and sessions are a safe place where no topic should be off-limits within the boundaries of reason. It is important you chose someone who you can trust because they will help you make decisions that are crucial to your future.

Your values and beliefs should be similar.

This goes with the point we just discussed. A person who shares moral perspectives and similar beliefs is someone who you will most likely trust easily. It is important to gauge this type of views before you being the partnership and that is why it is important to establish rapport and to engage in activities and time spent together before making a decision.