Mentoring versus Coaching for Innovation

I bet a lot of people get caught out in not knowing the differences between Mentoring and Coaching. Equally, when you are in the coaching mode you need to guard against moving over to the mentoring mode unless it is conscious ways. Understand the differences becomes important.

Why do we need to mentor or coach today? We are facing highly competitive environment changes. The key to the need of having facilitation is to bring fresher, more innovative and leading-edge solutions into any innovation thinking but it is often all about the blending of experiences and the relationship dynamics of those involved in this set of dialogues.

“For fresh vision and momentum, I need your past like you need mine”

The objectives are to deliver innovation understanding in both mentoring and coaching approaches 

  1. Inject real and future business and innovation knowledge into the mix
  2. Set a challenging, robust learning framework that is applicable to the needs and individual situations
  3. Seek out and explore the variety and diversity in the interactive ways of communication on offer today
  4. Build both the EQ and the IQ that want to push thinking to the edges of innovation understanding
  5. Always anchor the change you are setting out to solve, getting that learning agenda as the top of mind

Mentoring has become more internally driven in many organizations in recent times.

In some ways, this mentoring inside the one company on its own can be a mistake, it can often just ‘shape and clone.’ Even if there are age differences or experience gaps the positioning is often emphasizing that specific culture to avoid pitfalls inside and that alone is not the ideal mentoring environment, it is learning to avoid or circumnavigate but not allowing individuals to truly open up to new experiences or see beyond the present.

Inside mentoring you often don’t want to challenge the accepted and it simply becomes a reinforcing regime, as “not possible to change”. It does have value but this sort of mentoring is often not well-defined, more allocated as ‘helpful’ and ad hoc and without that lack of a structured design does limits the final impact. It becomes as useful and enjoyable, a place to exchange, to avoid common mistakes.

A culture of embedding innovation change needs to be based upon a stated philosophy that innovation learning is a key management strategy and, in my opinion, requires a little more structure and rigor.

The use of the learning and development required from this structured approach should be more about enhancing performance, breaking free from existing constraints, by pushing more the edges of innovation to learn from the best, an oracle or recognized expert on the subject, to take innovative thinking further and deeper in understanding. Coaching and Mentoring both have a place in any learning as they come at this in different ways.

So switching to my simple guide to the differences, drawn from my thoughts and others.

Mentoring Coaching
The content within the conversation More focused on the process of it
More guiding Greater in specifics
Top-line driven ( build of self) Bottom-line for outcomes
Growth and development as the focus Increasing performance
Links up as the relationship Directly related causation
Non-directive mostly Mostly directive
Raising Awareness Giving Advice
More informal- awareness objective More formal- learning objective

 Then we have those that are common to both

Focus on Learning & Growth

Provide a source of guidance

Provide opportunities for skill development

Use questioning strategies to draw a person or team out

The use of honest feedback to stimulate thinking and growth










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