Often I get asked what the difference is between a mentor and a coach.

Quite honestly I find it difficult to stand on any side. I suppose that is because I’m a bit of both and accordingly I can’t really distinguish any major differences. To me it’s semantics.

But for the purists there is most certainly some defining differences.

Probably the best analogy that I have found is that a mentor leads from the front and the coach walks along side. In other words a mentor is more of an adviser (been there, done that, got the tee shirt) whilst the coach is more of a facilitator come support partner. The mentor tells and the coach evokes.

Good mentors are easy to find because all you need to do is measure their external success in the industry/profession that’s of interest to you and approach them for guidance. The difficult part is convincing them to set aside adequate time to get involved with what you are trying to do.Most mentors offer their assistance from a place of grace and usually do not charge for their services.

A good coach on the other hand is not so easy to find as usually they are not anywhere near as vocal. Of course there are the JT Foxx’s of the world . But these courses are impossibly expensive (R240,000!) and are designed for more mature businesses.

You might find that the person with excellent listening skills has the propensity to be a far more effective coach than someone who makes a lot of noise. In fact effective coaching is centered around asking the right questions and then doing a lot of listening.

The real important attribute of your coach is how you relate to them and resonate with their personality. There are a lot of coaches out their wanting to capture your patronage.  What a good coach should be doing is evoking your own unique creativity. This does require a particular skill – and it is also part of a very personal and trusting relationship.

It is imperative that the coach is able to build enough trust so that you do not hold back. There might be important information that, once disclosed, could make a huge difference in the coaching approach.  The one that I come across a lot is issues around past romantic relationships. It is not surprising to find that a client is demotivated and drained as a result of an unresolved past relationship. This is a very important piece of information and could be the real reason why the client cannot stay focused. Just having the issue on the table allows for empathy and progress.

Now we are not talking psychology here. There is a significant difference between coaching and psychotherapy and it all starts with the client. And it is simply like this – if a client has taken responsibility for their life and stepped out of the victim mode, they are ready for coaching.

Taking responsibility is about them knowing that they create their own outcomes – it is their choices and actions that is the cause, not the economy, not dad’s abusive behaviour or the retribution of some higher power. It is the crossing of this Rubicon which, in my opinion, differentiates the coachee from the patient.

Getting back to the coaching relationship it is far deeper and connecting than that of a mentor.

And then there is the support aspect. I usually find that clients need moral support to give them the energy to carry on. Usually this is done by creating some cognitive reality to their present circumstances simply by getting them to see that the experience is human, not personal. This in itself requires skill and empathy.

Coaching costs money and is usually not cheap. But the value is immeasurable. With a good coach you get results almost immediately. The solutions allow you to create changes in your life quickly and efficiently – and they remain solid  and enduring as they come from your own creativity. (Coaching fees could be tax deductible if set off against other income eg: property rentals, bookkeeping/tax fees or network marketing commissions).

Coaching is not a cost – it is an investment . . . . . in the best money machine that you’ll ever find – yourself!