Mentoring & Coaching: The Power of Two

tutor, trainer, teacher-407361.jpg

When we first step into the first responder world, we seek guidance and support. We often find this in a mentor.

But, wait a minute, this is a coaching page, so why would we talk about mentoring here? While we promote life coaching and all its benefits, we recognize that other avenues of support are linked to success as well.

So what is mentoring, how is it different from coaching, and what’s the benefit of using both?

Let’s dive in.


Remember that moment you passed your test and got that first job as a rookie? Do you remember the first time you walked into your department? Maybe you already knew people or had some training, but you were still the new recruit. You needed someone to take you under your wing.

Mentorship is about being that person for the newbies. You know the job and the culture. There are several qualities of a good mentor.

Policies, procedures, and training can only take you so far. Having a boots-on-the-ground support person with experience and your best interest at heart means less stumbling and more direction, less discouragement and more encouragement, and fewer mistakes and more success.

A good mentor promotes the department’s goals and yields more success and retention among recruits. He or she offers constructive criticism, redirecting toward positive values and task-driven work ethics. This mentor will bring a crew together, communicate well, and be an active participant.

Many mentors act and perform differently, but the above pieces are common among all successful mentors. So, how does that differ from coaching? Isn’t a coach also encouraging and a good communicator? Yes, but there’s more to it than that.

Mentoring vs. Coaching?

While mentors will tell a person what’s best to do based on experience, a coach is an active listener. Coaches ask powerful questions, challenging the coaching partner to find the answers inside themselves. Coaches believe their coaching partners are whole, healthy, and resourceful. Resourceful.

The coach helps the coaching partner use themselves as a resource to find an answer, while the mentor is the resource and gives the answer to the recruit. In short, coaches ask; mentors tell.

There are times when expertise is needed and there are times when perspective need only be shifted. Sometimes the shift in perspective is realizing one has someone to ask.

There are benefits to both. A recruit doesn’t know what they don’t know, and neither does the coach. The mentor is there to guide and direct. However, the mentor doesn’t focus as much on a recruit’s personal goals and challenges (unless also trained as a coach—which is a win!), but a coach will ask those powerful questions to discover this.

What we can learn from each is unique and valued in different ways. Where one’s resource stops at the recruit, the other’s focus stops (most often) at the department’s needs.

It’s like having two different specialists working on the same task. Imagine if you could pull benefits from both. What would that look like?

Mentoring & Coaching: The Power of Two

Picture this.

A new recruit walks into the department for her very first shift. Nerves are up, shoulders are tense, and the culture is all foreign (unless she’s born in, but that’s a different story.)

The Mentor

Her mentor walks her around, showing her the department. The mentor assures her to talk when needed and he’ll check in from time to time. Partners are introduced, crews are met, first few calls are completed.

A couple of months in, this recruit has her feet under her. She’s completing calls with fewer questions and feeling confident. A few ugly calls knock her down but she seems good. The mentor continues check-ins but is focused on other departmental tasks and other recruits.

She calls out. Comes in next week, but calls out again. Now the mentor is checking on her again wondering what’s up. She insists all is well and she was just sick. Sounds legit. Just for good measure, her mentor offers information on a life coach and explains it’s paid by the department and completely confidential. He assures her he won’t even know if she contacts them.

The Coach

A couple of weeks go by and call-outs slow down. She’s more reliable. Unbeknownst to her crewmates, she’s seeing a coach.

One day, she comes into the mentor’s office asking to talk. He hears her concerns and why she was reluctant before. He learns more about her personal goals than he ever knew. She seems focused and enthusiastic about these new goals. She wants to further her education and continue in the department with her training. Now, with new goals, this recruit isn’t just a newbie; she’s got a plan to work up the ladder and become a role model herself.

The Results

Her mentor could only help her with the job. He didn’t know she felt stuck, or how the job was affecting her. He had an inkling but knew the department had a coaching package. His referral was key.

Her coach helped her navigate that “stuck” feeling and she realized exactly what she wanted. With the right questions and a challenge to think of what she wanted and needed, she knew what to do and who to ask for help when she couldn’t answer anymore.

With her coach helping her focus on her personal goals and her mentor helping her navigate her career, she’s on a path to success and personal satisfaction like never before.

Where Do You Fit In?

Did any of that sound familiar? If the results didn’t, the problem likely did. We all have different stories but similar challenges. Mentoring coupled with coaching creates a powerhouse of problem-solving and success. Maybe you’re mentor material or coach material, or maybe you need assistance. It’s okay to be the one in need. Even coaches and mentors need coaches and mentors for themselves.

Who do you know that can help you navigate those questions? Need help? Reach out to us.

[Departmental packages are key to helping your responders succeed. Talk to us to see what we can offer your department.]