Thursday, March 17, 2016

Mentor or Coach? (I do both...)(...often for free..)

What's the difference between a teacher, a coach and a mentor?

The answer is important, because I enjoy helping people. Not so much doing for them, but enabling them to do it for themselves.  Here's what I discovered:

If you simply do something for someone, then it's a straight-forward transaction:  time and cost. You'll need to know that will take a certain number of hours, and you'll need to know how much to pay per hour.  But you also need know how to recognize a successful completion.

Example: If you have a headlight that doesn't work, you can hire someone to replace it. They believe they can do it in 20 minutes and they charge $75/hour.  Your cost could be either $25 (1/3 of $75) or $75 (1 hour minimum) plus the cost of the bulb.  You recognize the successful completion of the task: the headlight works.

Continuing the example: It becomes a little bit more complicated when you want to learn how to do it yourself. Usually you're trying to save money, and you need help. Do you need teaching? coaching? mentoring?   At least you know what it looks like when you're done: the headlight lights up.

Final thought (from headlight example): who is the best person to ask? A clerk at a Wal-Mart?  The salesman at an auto parts store? The mechanic at a repair shop?  Oops, this last is now infringing on that mechanic's income.  What's fair?

Mentoring/Coaching/Teaching: The Internet 

Any two people have different levels of Internet knowledge and experience.  Maybe the first individual is only two paragraphs ahead of the other, but it's a huge gap to the second person.

Mentoring/Coaching/Teaching defines how the information is transferred from the former to the latter. But what's the difference?

Teaching (and Training)

Teaching is a one-way transfer of knowledge. An instructor-led classroom is the best example. There is an imbalance of knowledge.


Coaching assumes that the recipient pretty much knows the answer, and the "coach" helps him/her find it within themselves. With personal growth, for example, coaches help the student
  • Be clear about big picture goals
  • Identify and develop leadership qualities
  • Develop sound structures and accountability to accomplish the important long-term development goals (vs. the urgent performance ones)
  • Understand their own value and needs
  • Leverage their best qualities and talents


     This is a step above coaching. A mentor may assume additional responsibilities, such as being a role model (performing actions and displaying behaviors specific to a given role), Consulting (sharing information about an industry, company or business unit relevant to mentee), Brokering (making introductions to powerful, influential, and otherwise useful individuals in an industry or organization), and finally Advocating (for a mentee’s work assignments or career development to support the mentee’s growth and development).

You, me, and the Internet

You're here because you have questions about the Internet, and I can help you. I've redesigned the website for A Better Computer Inc to offer three levels of service;

  • You do everything for yourself on the web. I'll coach. I'll answer questions and point you towards resources to help you get there. Basically, you work the keyboard and I'll look over your shoulder.
  • I do everything for you. You tell me what you want, and the only thing you use the keyboard for is to review what's done and email your review.
  • We do it together. Where this is different is that some things I will do for you, and I will teach and coach you for other things so you can "drive" the keyboard yourself.



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