You’ve wondered for some time about getting help to make your job easier, learn from someone more experience and get a direction. Many times, CTOs come to me and want coaching. After some talking, we find out they want mentoring. Nevertheless, most people in the tech industry call my work coaching. So, what is the difference between coaching and mentoring? Have you wondered if you need a coach or a mentor? Often CTOs look for mentoring but search for coaching. People often say “coaching” when they mean mentoring. But what is the difference? Do you need a coach or a mentor?
There are many definitions of mentoring and coaching around, but the one I find most helpful is this: Coaching is helping someone develop and find her potential. Mentoring is learning from the experience of someone more experienced.
As a CTO coach I do both mentoring and coaching. Indeed, most people want me as a mentor (although they say coach). CTOs want to learn from my experience, not make the same mistakes and experience the same pitfalls as I did. This helps them progress faster than their peers and be able to have less stressful and more satisfying job experience.
In my coaching sessions we start with mentoring, because there is a lot of value in my CTO experience. This does distinguish me from many coaches with no technology leadership experience, or no CTO experience at all. We go through
- questions of quality
- business pressure
- dealing with the CEO
- dealing with product management
- scaling architecture
- scaling organizations
- implementing an engineering culture
- holding people accountable
- firing people
- and many more
I have seen many things so CTOs and coachees can profit from my mentoring. Mentoring is long term because the job of the CTO changes so many times in the first years that new kind of problems pop up all the time.
After we have been through mentoring, answered most of the questions that the coachees had for some time before she started mentoring, and solving the main problems, we go into coaching. At that time we stumbled over specific behaviour of the CTO that block progress and that arises again and again in different situations but leading to the same problems.
Examples may be being too nice and not forceful enough with business and direct reports, being and introvert not wanting to talk in public to the technology department or getting angry of other people mistakes. I help the person grow and develop to change the behaviour and I pick you up when you fell. Coaching is more short term and a kind of project. We have some specific things we want to change. After the behaviour is changed, coaching stops. Coaching might also be around speficic situations like M&A or getting promoted.