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Why seek coaching rather than mentoring or counseling?

Updated: Mar 21, 2022

There are many advantages to life coaching, and those will be discussed further in this article. Life coaches believe in the clients. Clients are so creative, and they know about themselves and their circumstances more than anyone else, thus coaching enables them to be the experts of their lives, businesses, companies, employees, and so on. Instead of seeking external input, the client, with the help of a life coach, looks internally to draw on their existing strengths and capabilities to develop their own strategies. Coaching enables the clients to be creative and resourceful. Life coaching provides the right environment for personal growth which increases autonomy. The right environment involves a good coach, a safe place, and judgment-free zone. Mentoring and counseling do not allow for individual growth.

Mentoring and counseling are usually not as effective in handling soft skills such as motivation, problem-solving, resilience, mindset, norming, team building, and conflict management because they come from someone else’s personal experience rather than the unique situation of the individual. Counselors or mentors provide advice and tips in the form of hands-on training from a peer or leader. They do not allow for personal input and creativity because they do the diagnoses and prescribe the cure on their own. Counselors and mentors offer strategies and solutions that worked before in similar situations without consideration to individual experiences and how they vary in terms of context even if they have similar elements. They look at problems from the same perspective and use preset strategies and recommendations. In life coaching on the other hand, solutions are not one-size-fits-all, and what worked for one individual in a particular situation may not work for others. Growth and empowerment are the byproducts of the coaching process. So, what is really the difference then between coaching and mentoring?

Some coaching clients often state how they worked with mentors who provided them with advice and instructions yet still ended up failing because the specific advice was inapplicable to their situation. Another reason some of the mentoring sessions fail is because the participants do not feel a sense of ownership with decision-making or problem-solving. It is more of a one-way conversation, preset and imposed external strategies from experts. Let us take an example and see how a coaching would deal with it and how a mentor would deal with it.

Some leaders’ express frustration because their employees do not follow policies, resist change, have poor performance or negative attitude. A mentor or a counselor would quickly provide strategies and approaches to handle poor performance including disciplinary action. A coach on the other hand would work with the client to understand what they want as an outcome, where are they now, where do they want to be, how do they wish to achieve that outcome, and what are the tools they will use to measure their success. The session is centered on the client, their needs, and their struggles and goals. A mentor dealing with these situations would provide tips and strategies that worked for their own situation, but a coach would guide the client to a solution of their own. From a coaching perspective what worked for one supervisor might not work for the other. Coaching promotes autonomous learning because it empowers individuals and supports ownership of decision-making and problem-solving.

The coach is not an expert in the field and does not need to be since the outcome depends on the client. Mentors and counselors, on the other hand, are usually experts within that specific field, but they are not usually experts in helping individuals find solutions within themselves or handling soft skills. Make no mistake, mentoring and counseling are also important, but we believe that they serve a different purpose. Finally, coaching cannot be imposed on someone. The person must be interested and willing to be coached. Clients embrace the journey to motivation, success, and achieving goals.

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