October 12, 2022

Coaching vs. Mentoring

I'm Melissa
I'm a Career and Leadership Coach for Women in Pharma/Biotech. I've been where you are, and I help you create the career you want without working more hours or settling for good enough.
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Coaching is becoming more accessible. It isn’t just for Senior Leaders anymore but what is the difference between Coaching and Mentoring?

Both are valuable to your career but they have distinct differences.

Tune in to this week’s episode to learn what those differences are and how to use them to reach your career goals.

What You’ll Learn

The difference between Coaching and Mentoring

Examples of how to use Mentoring and Coaching strategically for your career

How Coaching and Mentoring can get you results (even when they seem impossible)

Featured in This Episode

Work with Melissa

What Coaching Really Is – Podcast Episode

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Welcome to Navigating Your Career, the only podcast that blends personal development, professional skills, and psychology to help you get happy.

At work and live the life you want.

If you want to stop feeling stuck and start feeling better, this is the place for you. I’m your host, Melissa Lawrence. Let’s get started.

Hello and welcome to this week’s episode of the podcast. Today we’re going to talk about coaching versus mentoring, and I have had this topic on my list for a while. On occasion, someone will reach out and ask me, what’s the difference between coaching and mentoring? This has come up even more as coaching outside of the C suite or senior leaders at work is becoming the norm and it’s much more accessible. So as people are looking at what their next step is or how they can grow their career, they’re starting to look into it, but they’re like, what is really the difference? And if you listen to the episode with my client Tugba and finding joy in your career, you heard toward the end that we kind of had this brief discussion and back and forth about this topic. She was someone who referred to me as both coach and mentor and kind of used them interchangeably. And this wasn’t necessarily wrong because based on some of the conversations we had and my background, sometimes I was serving more in that mentor capacity. But there is a clear difference. Now, I posted a graphic on LinkedIn that illustrates the difference between coaching and mentoring, and I got a lot of positive feedback about it that it was super helpful.

So I thought let’s just talk about it here on the podcast in more depth. But if you want to see the visual, head to my LinkedIn profile and there is a link in the show notes for you to connect to my LinkedIn and you can go and check out some of my recent activity and find that image. Now let’s dive in. There is value in both mentors and coaches, and I really highly suggest both. They have different roles in your career and they both can be highly, highly valuable, especially when used together. And I’ve had great success with both, actually coaches and mentors. And many of my clients also have both. And if they don’t have mentors when they start coaching, that is something that we sometimes integrate because it can be strategically advantageous to getting your goal met or getting to that next level. And I’m going to talk about some examples of that. So a big misconception is that coaching and mentoring is the same and there are some similarities, like I said, but there’s also some big differences. So here are some definitions to help you understand the differences as well as how you can use them.

So mentors are a professional who has overcome the struggle that you want to overcome or is where you want to be like, say, a leadership level that you want to achieve and they can share advice with you based on their experience and what they have done, what they have seen. Mentors are fantastic for building relationships, learning industry or company specific information and can be used strategically to advance your career. This is often an informal relationship and is guided by the mentee. Now, here are some examples of how I’ve used mentors. In one role, I had a senior leader come in that directly made decisions about my area of work. So they could have promoted it and given me the green light or put up a wall and given me a red light. So I might have an idea for a new program or a solution that would have benefited the company or the employees. And so what I would do is I would kind of create the pitch, which the pitch sounds fancy, but it’s really just bringing it up to my manager and saying, hey, I have this idea and my boss may approve it and say that’s great.

But then when it would go to the next senior leader for approval because oftentimes for the roles that I was in, the ideas or the initiatives that I had impacted, not just one group, but they often impacted an entire site in hundreds or thousands of people, so I would have to have a higher level of approval. And what I found is that this leader that had come in, that was a newer leader that we had had different from what we had had in the past, was more focused on the bottom line and the kind of financial needs of the site and didn’t see people development as one of those critical needs to focus on at that time. So instead of just hitting a brick wall over and over again, I asked the senior leader to be my mentor. I wanted to build a relationship with him and through that relationship learn the drivers that were guiding his decisions and help him understand my perspective as well. So I asked him to mentor me and told him I wanted to get more visibility into how site decisions were made and that he had a perspective very different from mine that I wanted to learn from.

Now I want to make a little disclaimer about that because that was a very humbling moment for me. So I’m talking about it in a very articulate like I just reached out to the Senior Leader and said, I want to learn from you, but in all reality, and I know my clients go through this too, sometimes I was frustrated. I felt that what I wanted to do was the right path forward, that the business needed it, that I was doing my job and that this person was coming in brand new and stopping me from doing what was best for everyone. Okay? So that’s honestly how I really thought and felt about it. But those thoughts and feelings were not going to get me the outcome that I wanted, right? It was just going to create more resistance, more hitting a brick wall. So I couldn’t really just keep fighting the good fight. I had to be more strategic and so I was like, well, let me go to him. He’s clearly making decisions from a completely different perspective. He’s very different from me. We don’t see eye to eye on many things, but I can learn from him because he is very successful in his own right and there is something that I can learn from his perspective, from his approach.

And at the end of the day, he’s the decision maker. So I need to understand what his priorities are. So if I ever want to get anything through the door for approval, I know how to position it in a way that is going to be effective. And that’s just, I guess, a little side tip around influencing is really understanding who you’re talking to and being able to speak in their language based on their priorities, not mine. So I had asked him to be my mentor and we met once a month for about six months. And in that time we would also email each other occasionally things that he thought I would find valuable. And I did the same thing. And it’s important to note that I, as the mentee, was responsible for making that time a value add for both of us. I had to have the agenda, I had to know what I wanted to get out of that conversation. I had to make it so that time that we had together was a good use for him as well because obviously he had a very high leadership role. Time is money. So I needed to make sure that he was getting something from this as well.

So I had to also, in addition to coordinating what we talked about when we were going to meet, to tell him what I needed from him, but I also had to work with his admin to get time on his calendar. I was really fully responsible for what I was going to get out of that relationship. So in those conversations, I provided my input or perspective on what he shared with me and he would guide me into some of the business acumen that I wasn’t accustomed to. And in the end, I was actually able to get some big programs delivered at a site level that ultimately helped me get more visibility. And those programs were, some of them were even leveraged on a global level. And so this really helped elevate my career and make my work life much more enjoyable because I wasn’t constantly hitting that brick wall and I was actually getting things through. I was learning how to influence, I was learning how to build relationships with people I didn’t agree with. So it was overall a very positive development experience, even though it was very uncomfortable and I did this in a couple of other similar ways with key senior leaders as well.

So one was someone who I wanted visibility to and to learn from that was in a global human resources role. So I was in grad school at the time, and this HR leader had a background in employee engagement, which closely tied to my organizational psychology studies. So I wanted to learn from her how the big decisions were made, how she looks at what I do and how I can better support the organization. So I was thinking strategically about the role that I would ultimately want down the road, which was to lead talent and development within Biologics. And I was able to do this in part due to these key relationships. So had I not thought ahead into what are the relationships that would be beneficial to me, what are the gaps that I have, what do I need to learn? Who do I need to know? Then when it came time to pitch that promotion and that new role to be created for me, I probably wouldn’t have gotten it. But because I did these things, I was really like playing chess. I was like setting up the game board the way that I needed it to be set up, so that I was growing the way I needed to.

But I also had the right players that knew who I was and saw my talent and was able to support me. So in another example, I built a relationship with someone who was in another global space and provided resources to our site. So if you’ve worked in any sort of large pharmaceutical company or a global company, you sometimes have these centralized resources and like a global QA even, right, where they provide structure and guidance for you, and then it just gets rolled down to your site and it might not be applicable. So then maybe you have to create other SOPs and policies for how to implement that. And it just makes things really confusing. Sometimes it doesn’t even apply, and then it’s just hard to implement. You have more deviations, you get the gist. So we had that when it came to a talent and career development group. And so what happened is we would struggle with them because we would get these career development resources sent to us, but they weren’t always relevant. We were a manufacturing facility with multiple shifts. We couldn’t always get people onto live events when they were scheduled. It was just a little bit of a mess.

And so even though there was really good intentions behind it, it just wasn’t effective for us. And so our employees struggled to use them and they weren’t really useful for us because they weren’t practical or relevant. And so again, thinking strategically about my future, I reached out to the global head of talent and asked him to be my mentor. And through this relationship, he was able to help me understand and fill gaps that I had. We would review succession planning methods and talent reports and what HR looks at and what senior leaders that are not in HR look at. I would have assignments to interpret that information and then role model presenting the data as if I was presenting it to my own senior leaders. And that relationship was really good, again for my own development. But he also advocated for me to join a global talent network so I could be a liaison for our site. And this allowed us to have early access to what the group was planning. I could even use our employees where I worked for pilots, so we could provide feedback before the final product. And this demonstrated that I had the key relationships and made me really indisposable.

No one else was or could provide this, and so it greatly benefited our site within the company. So when it came time for me to pitch my promotion and turning my role into something the site had never had a lead of talent and development within Biologics, which is what I did, I had the right people on my side and I had already demonstrated the value of me being in that role. So other ways to use mentors is really to one, help you identify your gaps, and two, to help you fill those gaps through that person’s experience and then building key relationships because that is so important to your career. And so it isn’t just about learning how to do something new or understanding a new perspective, it’s really about the relationship building that you’re doing along the way. And so you can use mentors to help you with leadership challenges, with gaps that you may have in, say, your presence at work, or how you’re showing up, getting some feedback on how others see you, so many different topics. And you can get mentorship on technical areas too, like if you want to broaden or build your expertise or skill, like I did with one of my mentors with the talent reporting and succession planning.

So it’s really up to you. It doesn’t have to be. I know my examples that I use mentors with more recently in my corporate career were a bit higher level with these senior leaders. But it doesn’t have to be that high level either you can also mentor someone that is in a lower level than you, or you can mentor with someone that just has a technical skill that’s different than yours. Or maybe you just want to understand their perspective and learn from them. So it’s really about anything that you would want to learn or any relationship that you would want to build with someone that can help you in your career in some way. It’s just more informal and you’re the one guiding that. And so how to structure the mentorship, that could really be a whole other episode on mentorship programs, or how to navigate or manage a mentorship relationship. Maybe I’ll earmark that to do that another time. But in summary, the mentorship doesn’t have to be formal. It often isn’t. You can ask someone to be your mentor formally, like if your company has a mentoring program, but whether it’s formal or informal, you kind of define what you want that to look like for both of you, like how often you’ll meet, what your meetings will look like, where they’ll be at.

But they can also be really informal, where you’re just asking someone for coffee or asking someone for a meeting to pick their brain on a specific challenge, and then you can have that back and forth with them. You can learn from that conversation, and then you can decide, do I want this person to be an official mentor? And then you can ask them to be a mentor. But to be completely honest, so many mentorship relationships don’t have this formal request of, will you be my mentor? Yes, you can be my mentee. And then you kind of create this contract together. Like, a lot of times that doesn’t happen. It’s just building relationships and finding people you can learn from and making that valuable and, like, kind of a winwin for both of you. All right, now let’s move on to coaching. So coaches are trained professionals who facilitate an unbiased, structured and measurable approach to help you achieve your personal and professional goals. And coaching is fantastic for providing a safe space for you to overcome blind spots and grow personally and professionally in a way that is strategic, structured, and measurable. It’s usually a fixed duration and facilitated by the coach.

Coaching can also provide proven frameworks, expertise, and tools, which would be based on the expertise of the coach that you work with. For example, I have a master’s degree in organizational psychology and led talent and development within industry. So I bring industry knowledge, a background in leadership development, and psychology principles to my coaching. I also work with my clients on specific problems, so I have my own developed tools and frameworks, as well as some of the best tools that I’ve seen for career development when I worked in industry. So I have a podcast episode from a while back that I’ll link to that’s called What Coaching Really Is, and that really goes into the ethics of coaching and the details of how coaching sessions are structured. And so I’ll link to that if anyone really wants to dig into that or refresh yourself on that. But how you can use coaching is when you want unbiased and measurable results. You want to hire an expert who will help you see blind spots that you don’t see, who is trained to observe your behavior, and can help you make decisions that are best for you. So this is a professional container.

It’s not someone just providing advice to you or talking about their experience. So some specific problems that I help my clients with in coaching are feeling stuck in their career and not sure what to do next. May be bored, no longer challenged. Maybe you haven’t enjoyed your work for years or never have, or maybe you like your job okay, but you’re wondering, what else is out there for me, you want to make a bigger impact, get your ideas used and make a difference in a new way. As your coach, I have a process that takes you step by step to knowing exactly what you want to do and then helping you transition into that new role, whether it’s in your company, outside your company, or maybe even starting your own company. I also help my clients with personal and professional skills that they need to get into the role that they want or to get that promotion or next level of leadership. And so in coaching, you get a customized and personalized solution. So instead of reading an amazing book because there are a lot of great books out there, or trying to figure it out or take a general training program, those are great resources, but they aren’t unique to your thinking, what is relevant and practical to you?

And coaching helps you make sure that you actually implement what you learn. So some skills you develop and master are communication skills. Being able to influence at all levels effectively advocating for yourself and your team so you can actually be effective in meetings and get what you and your team needs. Leadership development skills like team building, effective oneonone. Starting a new leadership team. Stakeholder management, difficult stakeholders. Creating psychological safety within your teams. Standing out as a leader. I also help my clients with boundaries and time management. Knowing when and how to push back and how to have that flow between work and life. And of course, make more money. The industry is pretty well paid compared to some other industries, but women generally are underpaid. Last week I talked about how to know if you’re underpaid, and there’s a lot of people that are, even in a great paying industry. So I help you make more money, whether it’s acing the interview or negotiating the best package. You not only learn how to navigate those processes effectively, but you earn more through coaching by building your skills, influencing effectively. So even if you’re not interviewing, your performance bonuses are higher, your performance raises are higher.

If you want a promotion, we create a plan and we implement it so you get it. And then these skills that you build, the professional and personal skills, they compound year after year so that your career five years, ten years from now is so different than it would have been had you not gone through coaching. I’ve actually had a client tell me that she got a director level position because she hired me as a coach. And so when we had identified what she wanted and then she was in that stage of interviewing. The hiring manager asked her how she knew the role was a good fit. And she talked about the work we did in coaching. And the manager was so impressed and told her so that she had hired her own coach and didn’t just rely on company training or letting her career happen to her, that it put her in the front seat of candidates and she got the job. So coaching is really an opportunity for you to take your career into your own hands. It’s unbiased. Your boss or HR doesn’t have to know. It’s confidential. It’s in 100% service of you and it’s 100% personalized to you.

It’s really like having an expert in whatever it is that you want to achieve, guide you step by step and make sure that you implement and make sure that it works for you. And it’s measurable. And that’s so important. At least with me, it’s 100% measurable. We get really clear on the results. We create measurements so you know if you’re making progress and we track it along the way. So if we need to pivot, we pivot. But you always reach your goals. It is really the best career development investment you can make because there is no better asset than your brain. It’s like getting a PhD in yourself. You not only have the skills and tools, but you know your blind spots and you can overcome them. Think of the ripple effect of that in every part of your life. It’s insane. Alright, I can talk about coaching and development all day long, but my promise is that these episodes remain digestible. So I am going to leave it there. So if you are not happy in your career right now, there are people available to help you. You can seek a mentor, hire a coach, have both, reach out to that potential mentor or person you want to learn from.

And if there is a coach you want to explore working with, reach out. If I’m that coach. Let’s set up some time to talk. I offer consultation calls at no cost, so it can be an opportunity for you to see what’s possible and then decide if coaching is the right fit. Because sometimes when we talk on this episode in a specific but still general way, because I’m not talking to you directly about your specific problem, it can sometimes be like, is this really going to work for me? Or you might doubt like, I don’t know, that might be for other people. So that consultation call is an opportunity for you to hear how I customize my process for you and the specific results that you will get, how it all works. And then you get to decide if that’s a good fit. We get to decide, are we a good fit to work together? And if not, you at least know what’s possible. You at least know that there’s a process and that you don’t have to stay stuck anymore and that this is always an option for you now or down the road. I will drop a link in the show notes so that you can schedule some time if that is the direction you want to go.

But have an amazing week and go out there and if you want some help, ask for that help. It is available, you just have to take the step towards it. I will talk to you soon.

Coaching with me is the best way to guarantee you get happy at work and achieve your career and life goals. Getting started is easy. Head over to www.Melissamlawrence.Com to learn more and apply. It is the first step to get you from feeling stuck to knowing exactly what you want and have the tools.

To make it a reality.

I will be by your side the entire way.

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No longer settles for “good enough”

Hi, I’m Melissa.

Career & Leadership Coach for Women in Pharma/Biotech

I'm a former Talent & Development leader in Pharma/Biotech turned CEO and Certified Professional Career & Life Coach. I also host the podcast, Your Worthy Career.

I've been where you are, and I help you create the career you want without working more hours or settling for good enough.

I'm leading a movement of women in the industry who are figuring out exactly what they want and shattering the glass ceiling. The very real ceiling in the industry, but also the one that we impose on ourselves. 

So long, imposter syndrome and overthinking. It's time to step into the impact and life you're worthy of having.

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