The Great Mentoring Debate

The Great Mentoring Debate

Mentoring and CoachingThere’s an ongoing debate about the differences between coaching and mentoring that may never end.  Distinct differences remain somewhat elusive, but the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a mentor as “a trusted counselor or guide.” It only follows that mentoring would be defined as the act of counseling or guiding another.

What we think about mentoring often brings up visions of long ago — the wonderful and wise “old sage” sitting next to the young, eager beginner passes on the secrets of success. It’s a nice story that’s been told through books and movies. Maybe you’ve even heard them from grandparents or great grandparents. They are fascinating and inspiring stories, to say the least.

According to Wikipedia, the source of the modern use of the word mentor (referring to a trusted friend, counselor or teacher, or more experienced person) can be traced to a 1699 book entitled “Les Aventures de Telemaque”, by the French writer François Fénelon.

Perhaps the mentoring debate continues because we’re hanging onto that beautiful notion.  But the world is moving at a much faster pace today. The style of a lifelong mentoring relationship has little room in today’s hectic and much more transient world.  Not that those kinds of relationships only existed in the past. There may be traditional mentor–mentee arrangements to this day, but they aren’t the norm. Even those that volunteer to mentor kids don’t sign on offering long term mentoring. It’s still very valuable to the kids!

Professional mentoring and coaching offers strategies, techniques, tools and resources based on solid successes through hard won experience just like it has always been. Mentoring still brings forth crucial insight, advice and a deep sharing of knowledge today.

All that can be gained through mentoring shaves years off the amount of time it would take to acquire the same depth and breadth of understanding on your own.

That’s why a great many entrepreneurs rely on mentoring for the shortcut to success they seek. Most don’t have just one person to turn to for mentoring; they have several. I have several.

Mentoring can be long-term or short-term; work, interest or life oriented; in person or across the world. What was once a one-on-one, face-to-face relationship has changed with the times and technology.

Why should anyone settle for a mentor just because they’re close by, when a more qualified person may be across the country and have the exact kind of knowledge that’s needed? We aren’t bound by location anymore.  Technology has changed the world in many, many ways – including how mentoring is done.

What’s your take on mentoring? Are you willing to weigh in on the debate? Do you think of mentoring as it was in centuries past or do you think times have changed how we relate to each other on many different levels?

I’d like to hear your thoughts on the subject. Chime in below. Go ahead.

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  • Rey
    Posted at 05:06h, 02 February Reply

    Hi Loral: Thanks for the ideas about mentoring and how it differs from coaching. As you said the debate will likely never end, and I’ve even read some articles that while purporting to settle the debate, have actually reversed the actions associated with mentoring and coaching.

    A mentor is typically a person who can help you learn something more quickly then you might have been able to learn it on your own. In addition, that learning is typically a life lesson, something that stays with you in your heart and soul rather than just an immediate solution to a specific problem.

    As far as the history or origin of mentoring, we’ve created a page that offers four additional historical explanations that provide more depth than the Wikipedia details you provided. You’ll have fun reading them at :

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