Last Monday I wrote about coaching. Referencing the situational leadership model I wrote that coaching has it's place in S3. I realised that I left out an important distiction between coaching and mentoring. Mentoring is often viewed as coaching, which is a common mistake. Using the referenced model I'll explain the distinction.
The situational leadership model provides insight in the way people learn tasks. In the fist stage (S1) they're told exactly what to do. In the second stage (S2) this person performed this task a few times and will come across situation that cannot be handled in the step-by-step way they learned to do the task. In this stage you'll provide this person with ideas an solutions. Reaching the third stage (S3) this person is able to handle all situations, standard or otherwise. In this case you still can provide your solutions, but the person in question should to come up with their own solutions, because she or he is able to. By asking the right questions in stead of providing solutions you give this person the room to learn. In the last stage (S4) the person is able to cope with every situation. Maybe my choice of word already gave the disctinction between mentoring and coaching away. This distiction lies between S2 and S3.
Mentoring is providing your ideas, your solutions and your priorities. You'll help the other solve solutions. This is mentoring. Giving guidelines to work by. This is quite normal behaviour for most people, especially men. Thinking is solutions solving problems is the easiest way. But this way other people don't learn to think for themselves.
With coaching on the other hand the fist goals isn't solving the problem, but leaving room for other people to learn and, yes, sometimes to swim for a while. Of course you'll have to make sure this person has enough guidelines and expirience to be able to learn from this swimming. If you skip S1 and S2 people will become quite insecure and unhappy. But by reaching S3 and give people responsibility for their own learningproces and solutions people will grow and (probably) be happy.
Both mentoring and coaching have their place and are good things. It's good to recognise win which case to do what. It'll help other people to learn and grow.