The difference between manager, coach & mentor.

As you career grows, so do you. Sometimes your career path charges forward, other times it feels like it stumbles and stalls.  That’s OK, your career, like life is a journey.  On that journey, there are times when a little extra help will be of benefit. If you’ve already chatted to your peers and your colleagues, then you may need to look to someone with more experience, but who? Following our recent global virtual career festival, here’s my quick guide on the differences between a manager, a coach & a mentor.

A manager is your first port of call for the day to day work you do, a primary point of advice and escalation.  But your manager is also there to help you consider your development.  You should be booking time with your manager at least every 3 months to talk about your delivery, your performance and your progress.  This sits outside normal 1-2-1s and is an important duty of a manager.  You and your manager should discuss and agree your personal development goals and track progress together.  Your manager can really help you move forward if you open up and share your aspirations.

A coach usually has a specific focus, aimed at helping you develop and evolve a specific set of work skills.  You might be assigned a coach because you need to develop or enhance certain skills, or you might be assigned a coach because of a change in the way your function is working. For example, a Lean or 6-sigma coach might work with you to enhance process and service delivery, or improve efficiency of your team.  A coach‘s remit is usually well-defined and measurable around a fixed set of skills and deliverables.

A mentor is usually assigned a little further on in your career, when you are looking to take a significant step forward in your career. A mentor does not necessarily have to have the same background as you, and it’s often beneficial if they don’t.  The main role of the mentor is to listen, act as a sounding board and when required, offer input to help you reach a conclusion.  The relationship between you & your mentor is confidential, allowing you to open up and really examine how you can tackle the challenges and opportunities ahead.  Because of this, not every mentor – mentee relationship works – and it takes effort on both sides to establish the trust required to make the relationship work for both sides.  Both mentor and mentee ultimately develop and evolve as a result of the relationship.

So when you think about what additional help you need in your career, think about the outcome you are trying to achieve.  Are you clear in your mind why you need assistance?  By identifying your goal, you’ll be better placed to know whether you need a manager, a coach or a mentor.



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