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A closer look at the differences between mentoring and coaching

Throughout the first month of our coaching engagement, I gave my client honest feedback on various aspects of his leadership style.

Now it was my turn to get his feedback. And to be honest, it felt a bit like a needle to a balloon: a quick sting followed by a slow deflation.

You told me to be upfront if I had any issues with the coaching,” he wrote in an email.

So I’ll just be honest,” he continued. “I’m a linear thinker and I need a direct approach. I don’t think we’re getting anywhere with all your open-ended questions.”

The message went on to say,

When I was working with my mentor last year, he suggested an action plan and I was checking off the steps. I feel like you and I are constantly brainstorming and reflecting rather than getting things done.”

Hired by this executive to help him shift perceptions of his approach, I wasn’t completely surprised. I was used to clients initially resisting the self-discovery that effective coaching requires before planning action. But he seemed so sure of what he wanted.

I wondered what I could have done differently. And then I began to understand the real source of his resistance.

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