Coaching, Mentoring, Training – When to use each hat?

I have been dealing with this issue in my head for quite some time.

Looking back in to my past life, I had plenty contact with those concepts.

I have been teaching since 2005 and before that I spent almost 20 years between formal education and training. I like to believe that I understand the concept of Training. Sure, there are lots of stuff I do not know, I’m in no way a Pedagogy student. But I fully understand the concept.

When I started my career as a developer, I remember asking Kim Hansen for advise. I didn’t knew the guy and almost 17 years later, we still never met. It was my first relationship with someone I saw as a mentor.

Time passed by and as I climbed the ladder, I look for several other mentors. When I had my first break as a CTO, I remember asking Nuno Godinho and Ricardo Fiel for advise. I worked before with this two dudes. I had the opportunity to share the stage and some travels with them, and I have nice memories of those times. And I call them friends.

Performing a complete circle, I started to become a mentor to other people as well. I believe I have a decent understanding on the concept of Mentoring.

In a particular time in my life, I felt somewhat lost. I wanted something but I couldn’t discover how to start moving toward that goal. I had the opportunity to have several coaching sessions with Joana Araújo Lopes, a psychologist and coach, and friend of my wife. Those sessions were transformative.

Currently I’m in the middle of my training as a certified Coach, and I started to have a better understanding of what Coaching is.

These three concepts have a similar desired outcome, help someone to improve and be more effective. However, even with the same outcome, they are totally different approaches.

It is time to dig in !!

Training

The easiest to correlate with. We spend almost 1/4 of our lives going to a formal school or to a training center. We have the concept of curriculum and well defined learning objectives, which should be delivered through a teacher/trainer figure. We are talking about lectures, discussions, exercises and everything that pedagogy preaches (try to remember your student days).

This is a formal relationship between a class (or just one student) and the teacher/trainer. Most of the time, we do not have much saying about which teacher fits the raffle.

If you recall, the teacher have a major influence in how you sink into the curriculum, into the knowledge base. There is a direct knowledge transfer and if the teaching figure really loves what he is doing, students will also be more enthusiastic towards learning.

And every time a diploma is necessary, this is the approach.

Mentoring

A mentor is someone you ask for help. Probably someone that you look to with credibility, someone who has the experience and knowledge you seek. An informal relationship between two people, with no obligations. It may be between friends or work colleagues. Many times it happens without each party declaring that someone will be mentor to the other. Not that many times, it starts with a cold email to someone you do not know personally (it depends heavily in luck).

This is the learning process with greater informality, and it is an evolving process. If both parties keep the relationship going, the probability to evolve into a peer-relationship is very high.

Like I wrote previously, in my career I had at least three mentors. Every time I had a doubt on how to do something, or how to have a different approach on something, I would pick up the telephone and chat for an hour or scheduled a lunch. I would leave with new ideas, new approaches, new insights, all from their previous experience.

The beauty of this method is that it allows for different mentors, each in a particular field – I remember asking more people and getting only silence as response, but do not be disillusioned.

Seek for a mentor and do not forget to be a mentor to others. We all have something to share, to teach and more, to learn.

Coaching

Here comes the art of making powerful questions – this is the way many coaching trainers defines coaching.

A coach does not have to be someone you consider an expert in the field of your doubt. A coach will not teach you, will not mentor you. That is not the role of a coach.

A coach should fire questions. Questions that must unlock your thinking. It all goes with the premise that all the answers lie within yourself.

It all starts with the clarification of the exact departure point – point A.

A coach will ask you questions to clarify as well the desired outcome, the point B.

A coach will help you explore and consider all possibilities to move from A to B.

It might be a formal or informal relationship whose duration will last as long as the objective B is not met. Sure, we are humans and relations develop, but a coach-coachee relation will end when the point B is reached. Many times, the process keeps rolling but always with different agendas, with different As and Bs.

There is grey area between mentoring and coaching. If your coach had a similar past experience, and if you two are acquainted, there is probability that your coach will propose some options to reach your desired outcome. Beware, this is mentoring and any coach should state that to the coachee, and probably will only happen in an informal coach-coachee relationship.


At Rupeal GroupKWAN, InvoiceXpress, ClanHR – the company I work for, we have a culture that promotes coaching in a formal (and informal) way.

Every director, manager or team leader should be a certified coach and should allocate time in their agendas to help any collaborator that desires to.

If the outcome is related with the professional expertise that the coach has, probably it will evolve to a more mentoring relationship.

However, I know that people take advantage of the opportunity of coaching sessions to try to reach new outcomes in areas other than their career – finances, relationships, health, …

Do not be surprised by this, in a company that promotes transparency, it is normal for employees to talk about everything (but coaching sessions are private and confidential).

Starting in May, I will have time slots for 4 coachees. If you are interested, pitch me through LinkedIn (DM).

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