The Difference Between a Mentor and an Advisor

I asked Jim Flowers, Executive Director of VT KnowledgeWorks, this question:

"What is the difference between a mentor and an advisor, between mentoring and advising?"

Jim Flowers kindly replied:

The Difference Between a Mentor and an AdvisorMy working definition of a mentor is "someone who provides timely, contextually relevant information."  Merlin did not tell young Arthur what to do.  He provided him with examples of potentially useful information about the world.

I also attempt to make clear for people the differences between and among information, opinion, and advice.  This set of distinctions is most easily demonstrated by a simple example.  "The sky is blue."  "Blue skies are pretty."  "You ought to go outside and look at the pretty blue sky."

Information is almost always useful.  Opinion is colored by the experiences and beliefs of the person opining.  Advice is a prescription, typically based on opinion, and is heavily loaded with the world view held by the advisor, often regardless of, or with limited relevance in the context of, the world view of the advisee.

"if I were you, I would…" is a useful acknowledgment that the advice about to be delivered is recognized as personal to the speaker, though not necessarily to the listener.

Advisors assume, at least temporarily, control of some part of the decision-making process.

Mentors assist and empower decision-making by the mentee.

More by Jim Flowers on Handshake 2.0

More about VT KnowledgeWorks on Handshake 2.0

Handshake Media, Incorporated, the parent company of Handshake 2.0, is a VT KnowledgeWorks member company.  VT KnowledgeWorks is a client of Handshake Media, Incorporated.

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