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The Difference between Coaching, Mentoring and Training

“If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favourable.”

[Lucius Annaeus Seneca]

There are fine, but very distinct, lines that differentiate coaching from other modalities such as mentoring or training. Each of them has their particular purpose and their specific role to play in a person’s journey of self-discovery and personal development. I am a firm believer in the fact that setting clear boundaries can provide a great sense of freedom. This may sound counterintuitive, but it is only when we clarifying expectations, set limits, and define what is, and what is not, that we have the important information to decide if something is the right fit or not.

Welcome back to Spiegelbild!

I want to use this blog to help you understand the differences between three concepts that are often used in a similar context: coaching, mentoring and training. I’m hoping the information contained below will help you decide which of these concepts best suits your immediate needs, and helps you navigate your current endeavours or tackle upcoming challenges. It is my sincere wish to help you avoid disappointments and frustrations that

can result from choosing the wrong partner for the next part of your journey.

Since you’re reading this blog I’m thinking you must be at least a little curious about options for fostering personal and professional growth. Maybe you’re the leader of a team or the CEO of a company and are seeking options for the career development of your team members and employees? Maybe you’re thinking more personally and want to ensure that the money you’ll invest in yourself gets you the support you need? Here is what you need

to know to identify which approach would most benefit your team or yourself.

Coaching focuses on personal and professional development. It is based on the fundamental conviction that the coachee is the expert and knows everything they need to know to succeed. A coach will work with individuals, couples, and teams of various sizes to unlock the coachee’s inherent, full potential. To a achieve this a coach will use different techniques such as asking powerful questions to tap into the coachee’s vision, wisdom and


Herein lies one of the fundamental differences to any of the other concepts. A coach will not give you answers to your questions or advise you what to do. Instead, a coach will ask you (many) meaningful questions to help you find your own answers and solutions.

Spiegelbild uses equine-assisted coaching, which adds a unique and innovative dimension to coaching. In our programs the horse becomes your co-coach and thus an integral part of your coaching journey. Horses provide honest, in the moment feedback and thus allow the coach to share observations and initiate reflective conversations with the coachee to enhance their personal and professional development.

A coach will guide the coachee to enable them to access different “channels” of their cognitive abilities. This leads to gaining new perspectives, putting issues in different contexts, and normalizing conflicts both at an interpersonal and professional level. An open mindset — sometimes also called a beginner’s mindset — is crucial for developing new skills, realizing new objectives and making meaningful changes to one’s approach to

opportunities and challenges. Ultimately, coaching is a transformational journey that often results in a sustainable shift of a coachee’s approach to relationships in general, and leadership, teamwork and professional objectives in particular.

The coach and the coachee are both jointly responsible for fulfilling the coachee’s agenda and meeting the coachee’s goals.

Mentoring is a knowledge-tiered relationship between a mentor — usually an exceptionally experienced person in their field — and a mentee who seeks guidance, help and support to develop and improve their career. Mentoring is typically not a short-term engagement, but rather a longer-term relationship that relies on mutual respect, trust

and the interest in achieving professional goals.

Mentoring offers direction and career-based instructions and is focused on the relationship itself rather than any particular aspects of professional performance. The difference to coaching is that mentoring involves a mentor sharing their personal experience, understanding of the rules of the game in a certain professional field, and

professional insights with a less experienced mentee. Mentoring is thus not aimed at improving any particular skills. It is about knowledge transfer, practical advice and learning from the mentor’s experience.

The mentee is responsible for the learning agenda and for making the most of what has been communicated to them by the mentor.

Training is geared towards conveying knowledge and specific skills, often provided through a targeted learning experience. Training can either be used to expand on a skill set or knowledge base (so-called up skill), or to educate employees to perform in a new or related work area (multi-skill). The latter is typically aimed at furthering effectiveness and performance in the workplace. Overall, training helps to bridge the gap between a trainee’s current skills and the skills required to fulfill a (new) specific role.

Knowledge is provided by an expert in a particular field. Unlike coaching, the premise for training is that the trainees do not have the necessary skill set or knowledge and therefore have to learn more. The trainer must possess more knowledge than the trainee, and should have all the right answers and solutions.

Training is generally a team-oriented process with little time spent one-on-one. This can be beneficial to encourage team camaraderie, the development of interpersonal skills, and a sense of responsibility towards a common goal.

Responsibility for the training content, and delivering the desired knowledge lies with the trainer.

So, know that we’ve figured that out, what are some of the reasons for choosing a coach over a mentor, or a trainer over a coach?

I don’t want to make it sound as if there are hard black and white boundaries between these modalities. Grey zones do exist where coaching might drift into mentoring, or mentoring into training.

However, if you find yourself at a crossroads in your career; if you recently got promoted into a new position and are seeking to improve your leadership skills; if you want to increase your awareness of yourself and your relationship with others; or if you feel you have lost touch with what matters most to you — your inner values and principles — you will likely find working with a coach most beneficial and rewarding. It is important to understand that coaching is not counselling or therapy. If you would like to learn more about the differences between these professions please check out my blog about equine-assisted coaching vs. equine therapy published in November last year.

If you are building a new business; trying to find solutions to a complex professional problem; need to navigate multi-facetted relations with interested parties or customers you never worked with before; or are entering a new professional field, a mentor might be able to provide you with valuable insights and advice from their rich history in the professional field. Learning under a mentor’s guidance might help you find the solutions you were

looking for.

And finally, if you want to improve particular skills, expand your knowledge base, or transfer your existing skill-set to a related area of work, a trainer is likely your best and most efficient choice who can help you reach your goals.

Bear in mind that regardless of which avenue you chose, a good and responsible professional will assess your reasons for working together, discuss your progress, and check-in with you along the way to ensure what you’re getting from the relationship meets your expectations. Based on your joint assessment, and in case things have shifted, you’ve encountered issues that exceed their respective expertise, or you require particular assistance, they should be able to advise you to explore other modalities.

Are you curious if equine-assisted coaching might be the right choice to support you on your personal, professional or leadership journey? Book a free 30-minute consultation through our website. I’d be happy to explain in more detail the unique development opportunities you can expect from our programs. We are here for you — one human-horse partnership at a time.

I hope you enjoyed this blog. If you did, please sign up with your email though our website to never miss a blog and access more interesting insights and perspectives.


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