Coach K vs. Mr. Miyagi: Do Your Employees Need a Coach or a Mentor?

Mike Krzyzewski, affectionately known as Coach K, is the head men’s basketball coach at Duke University. He’s one of the greatest coaches of all time. Mr. Miyagi comes to us from the film “The Karate Kid” and may be the best-known mentor around.

But what’s the difference between a coach and a mentor? You might have examples of each at your organization. You might even play one of these vital roles yourself. How do you know which one your employees need?

Coaches: Nurturing skills, boosting performance

Coach K is a great coach because he can help each of his players develop individual skills: driving to the lane, rebounding, playing pressure defense. He develops specific skills in players so they play well as a team. That’s what wins NCAA championships and Olympic gold medals.

Likewise, a career coach could be a supervisor at your firm or an outside expert who helps your employees develop the skills they need to perform certain tasks. Coaches focus on short-term performance. Just as Coach K might help a 19-year-old perfect his crossover, so too might a coach at your firm help one of your team members with a specific skill.

For example, a coach could help a team member who’s having trouble providing documentation for Sarbanes-Oxley compliance. Or a coach could help a financial analyst who is unclear about performing reviews and forecasting expenses. The goal of coaching is to encourage your employees to excel at the job at hand.

Mentors: Guiding careers, offering advice

Mr. Miyagi is a great mentor because he teaches young Daniel about life. Of course, he also teaches his protégé karate. But instead of focusing on techniques like the round hook punch, as a coach would, Mr. Miyagi takes a more high-level approach. Remember how upset Daniel-san got when Mr. Miyagi forced him to wax on, wax off? 

Likewise, a mentor at your firm would do more than wax philosophical. Mentoring is more relationship-driven than coaching. A mentoring program goes beyond individual skills to help develop a staff member’s career.

Employees can expect advice from their mentors about issues affecting them on the job: how they can better acclimate to the job, achieve work-life balance, or seek leadership development — not how to reconcile accounts.

Onboarding and succession tools for the long haul

For these reasons, mentoring programs are especially helpful when you’re onboarding employees. Mentors help guide employees and provide support when they begin work at your organization. Mentoring programs also help during succession planning. You want a potential successor to be strong in certain areas: self-confidence, self-perception and integrity. These are attributes best covered in a mentoring program. Because they take time to develop, mentoring is a long-term process. Coaching is usually for the short term.

Coaching and mentoring can both be fruitful in your organization. The key is identifying your goals so that you know whether you need a Coach K or a Mr. Miyagi.

How do you use coaching and mentoring in your organization? Let us know in the comments section. 

Photo Credit: Flickr, Creative Commons license

Related Posts