Mentor vs. Manager: What’s the Difference?

While a mentor and manager seem interchangeable, they will not always be the same person. You may think it is obvious at first. Shouldn’t all managers be mentors? Not every manager is the best choice to be a mentor and not all mentors should be your manager. Knowing the the difference between these titles will guide you in the direction you need. 

Defining Mentor and Manager

Mentors are experienced or trusted advisors who train or counsel others. They provide resources and their personal experiences to advise on your job. 

A mentor is different from a coach. Coaches help develop actionable plans without necessarily knowing or being more experienced in your profession. They form reflective spaces for people to consider various solutions to achieve their goals professionally and personally. Learn more about coaching on our blog

Managers, on the other hand, conduct business by directing a team. They delegate work, training, scheduling, and other operation-based tasks. 

Managers can be mentors, but staying non-directive and impartial is difficult when meeting deadlines and achieving objectives. 

What’s the difference?

Mentors are personally focused; Managers are work-focused

Both managers and mentors want to look out for your well-being. They can empathize and aid in overcoming personal challenges. However, a manager/employee relationship is outlined by company policy and is responsible for your work performance. It can be conflicting for managers to fully support their employee’s personal careers apart from the company.

Mentors outside your company or organization are better suited to support you personally as there is no business motivation. They can give more impartial advice that incorporates more of your personal situation.

Mentorship is casual; Management is strict

Mentorship allows you flexibility in an informal setting. It can be over coffee or lunch. You can sit on a park bench and talk for hours. Managers, on the other hand, will meet during work hours when they are available. They might not always have more than an hour to talk with you about your professional aspirations. Consider what environment and time frame you need with a mentor. 

Mentors provide options; Managers delegate

Both mentors and managers can assist with obstacles or questions relating to your work. Managers will give you a direct answer to fix the problem on time. Whereas, mentors might provide a personal anecdote and various options for how to solve the problem. Both are vital for career development. When you bring a question to your manager about a program, you need it to be short and to the point. Yet, when learning a new skill, you will want guidance over deadlines. 

Mentors celebrate; Managers develop

Management focuses on progress. For instance, working on a project requires specific updates on completion. They are more likely to celebrate group objectives than every individual milestone. Mentors celebrate small and large achievements. They push you to be confident in your abilities.

Why not both?

Mentors and managers can be the same person. Often, effective managers use mentoring techniques to support their teams. They can give you insider knowledge about the company that an outside mentor might not have. There are limits to either option. It comes down to what kind of assistance you are looking for in your professional development.

Want to find a mentor? 

IAW’s mentor program offers a diverse range of experienced mentors from all around the globe. With unlimited networking events, you can find the perfect mentor for you. Learn more about IAW’s membership today and find out how you can take the next step in your career.

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