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Mentoring or coaching?

Published on Thursday, 24 May 2012
Illustration: Bay Leung
This week, we examine the key differences between mentoring and coaching. Mentoring is "relational" and it takes place outside of a line manager-employee relationship, by mutual consent of the mentor and mentee. It also focuses on professional development that may be outside a mentee's area of work, and the mentor can provide both professional and personal support.

It may be initiated by a mentor or by the employer. The relationship also crosses job boundaries and lasts for a specific period of time - such as nine months to a year - in a formal programme, at which point the pair may continue an informal relationship.

Coaching in the workplace, in contrast, is "functional". Managers coach their staff as a requisite function of the job. The coaching takes place within the confines of a formal manager-employee relationship, and it focuses on developing individuals within their current jobs.

Interest is functional, arising out of the need to ensure that each person can perform the tasks required to the best of their abilities. The relationship, usually initiated and driven by the manager, is finite, as it ends with a job transfer, a retirement or resignation.

Next week, some tips on successful mentoring.

Christine Sim, general manager for search and recruitment, Links Recruitment Singapore

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