Coaching and mentoring are two options for people looking for guidance, and the most frequent question I am asked is about their difference. Both coaching and mentoring have similar talents and are both utilised for professional growth, but the way they are structured and what happens after they are used are extremely different.

Definition Of Coaching and Mentoring

Selection: Coaching OR Mentoring?

Ideally, coaching can be characterised as: collaborating with clients through a thought-provoking and creative process that motivates them towards the achievement of their personal and professional goals.

A COACH is someone who advises a client on their goals and assists them in reaching their full potential. Coaching is frequently shorter-term and might be as brief as a 10 – 15 minutes conversation. Coaching is a performance-driven process that helps the individual or individuals being coached to excel in their day-to-day tasks.

Mentoring, on the other hand starts with the mentor. A mentor is a knowledgeable, experienced, and trusted advisor, and mentoring is an “employee training system in which a more senior or more experienced individual (the mentor) is assigned and acts as an advisor, counsellor, or guide to a junior or trainee.” As a mentor, you have the responsibility of offering support to and feedback on the individual under your supervision.”

A MENTOR is someone who contributes their knowledge, skills, and/or experience to assist others in developing and growing. Mentoring is frequently longer-term, with some mentoring relationships lasting 6 months or more, and mentoring can span years or even decades in some circumstances.

One of the most distinguishing features is that mentoring is directed, whereas coaching is non-directive. In practise, what does this mean? In mentoring meetings, the mentor is likely to do the majority of the talking, whereas in coaching, the coach is likely to pose questions and give the person they are coaching space to reflect and do the majority of the talking. Finally, both coaching and mentoring are about allowing people to go to where they want to go by utilising the coach’s or mentor’s experience.

Coaches and mentors can be chosen for their industry expertise (banking, health care, manufacturing), position expertise (marketing, finance, human resources), skill set (spokesperson, committee chair, conference presenter), or other valuable expertise that can enhance any person’s life, such as community service or board service.

The best way to understand how coaching and mentoring relationships are structured is to do a side-by-side comparison:


TimeframeRelationship is more likely to be short-term (up to 6 months or 1 year) with a specific outcome in mind. However, some coaching relationships can last longer, depending on goals achieved.Relationship tends to be more long-term, lasting a year or two, and even longer.
FocusCoaching is more performance driven, designed to improve the professional’s on-the-job performance.Mentoring is more development driven, looking not just at the professional’s current job function but beyond, taking a more holistic approach to career development.
StructureTraditionally more structured, with regularly scheduled meetings, like weekly, bi-weekly or monthly.Generally meetings tend to be more informal, on an as need basis required by the mentee.
ExpertiseCoaches are hired for their expertise in a given area, one in which the coachee desires improvement. Examples: Presentation skills, leadership, interpersonal communication, sales.Within organization mentoring programs, mentors have more seniority and expertise in a specific area than mentees. The mentee learns from and is inspired by the mentor’s experience.
AgendaThe coaching agenda is co-created by the coach and the coachee in order to meet the specific needs of the coachee.The mentoring agenda is set by the mentee. The mentor supports that agenda.
QuestioningAsking thought-provoking questions is a top tool of the coach, which helps the coachee make important decisions, recognize behavioral changes and take action.In the mentoring relationship, the mentee is more likely to ask more questions, tapping into the mentor’s expertise.
OutcomeOutcome from a coaching agreement is specific and measurable, showing signs of improvement or positive change in the desired performance area.Outcome from a mentoring relationship can shift and change over time. There is less interest in specific, measurable results or changed behavior and more interest in the overall development of the mentee.

Now that you have a basic understanding of the difference between coaching and mentoring, how will you know which is best…

……….. working with a coach or working with a mentor?

When to Use a Coach

  1. Develop raw talent with a specific new skill
  2. Enhance the experienced professional with a new or refreshed skill
  3. Help individuals who are not meeting expectations or goals
  4. Assist leaders in coping with large-scale change through a merger or acquisition, like managing new “blended” work teams and adapting to the merging of company cultures
  5. Prepare a professional for advancement in the organization
  6. Improve behavior in a short period of time, like coaching an executive to address the media on a specific topic
  7. Work one-on-one with leaders who prefer working with a coach rather than attending “public” training programs

When to Use a Mentor

  1. Motivate talented professionals to focus on their career/life development
  2. Inspire individuals to see what is possible in their career/life
  3. Enhance the professional’s leadership development
  4. Transfer knowledge from senior to junior professionals
  5. Broaden intercultural or cross-cultural ties within the organization
  6. Use the mentoring process as an entrée to succession planning

REMEMBER . . . When deciding whether to use a coach or a mentor, consider the goal you wish to achieve. The coach and the mentor will help professionals in different ways to accomplish their goals. In fact, some professionals use multiple coaches or multiple mentors throughout their careers, depending on their desired goals. In both coaching and mentoring, trust, respect and confidentiality are at the forefront of the relationship.

The Key Benefits to Mentoring and Coaching

Both mentoring and coaching have a range of benefits, which, when conducted correctly can benefit both the individual receiving mentoring and coaching, along with the mentor or coach and the organisation too.

Here are some benefits to mentoring and coaching:

  • Both mentoring and coaching are extremely effective learning techniques.
  • Both mentoring and coaching can be formal and informal, with mentoring often seen more informally and coaching often see more formally.
  • Both can increase employee engagement and retention when applied.
  • Both mentoring and coaching are easy to implement into any organisation or business structure and increasingly we’re seeing organisations running both.
  • Both mentoring and coaching can increase confidence and the interpersonal skills of the person providing the mentoring or coaching, and the person receiving it.
  • Both can dramatically improve individual performance.

As you delve deeper into working with a coach or a mentor, consider these final tips:

  • Decide what assistance you need. Are you trying to figure out how to climb the corporate ladder? Do you want to be considered for more high-powered job assignments? Do you have an interest in working on more internal committees? Would you like to improve your presentation skills so you can deliver more presentations at national conferences? Are you interested in managing a community project for your company? When you decide what your need is, find an appropriate coach or mentor.
  • Trust and respect your coach or mentor. Every meaningful relationship is built on the foundation of trust and respect. You must trust your coach or mentor to provide you with expert guidance, feedback and support, based on his/her life experiences. Respect his/her opinions and ideas for the same reason because your coach or mentor has lived through challenges that you may not have yet experienced.
  • Establish ground rules. Determine how often you will meet, how long your relationship will last, outline of roles, importance of confidentiality and preferred methods of communication and feedback.
  • Determine your outcome. What do you want to have happen to you at the end of the relationship? Discuss this with your coach or mentor.
  • Open your mind and heart. Learning from someone who has more experience than you do and who can share successes and failures openly is a tremendous gift. The key to getting the most out of the relationship is your ability to enter into the relationship with as open a mind and heart as possible. Don’t be judgmental or too hasty in your decisions. Expect the unexpected.

Coaching employees is the key to building and maintaining a self-motivated staff. Initially, it will take extra time – the whole teach-a-man-to-fish process versus just catch-a-man-a-fish. But the results are worth the investment.

The better you coach, the more prepared your team will be to achieve their goals. Successful coaching guides employees in the right direction but promotes independent thinking and team collaboration to overcome obstacles. This in turn fosters a relationship of trust and empowers the team to act dynamically.

Coaching Culture …imagine an organisation where all leaders and managers have conversations with teams and individuals which show empathy, build trust and support continuous development. It’s somewhere that ongoing coaching develops a growth mindset in every employee, so behaviour change is embraced, real and sustainable. And it’s a place where the best people want to work, where employees are highly engaged and where everyone is striving to perform at their peak.

Essential Coaching Skills for Managers and Leaders

Coaching is similar to a self-development journey, for any growth requires effort. A coaching course is always a great idea, but you can start improving these skills today, whatever your budget constraints might be. If you’re a manager or leader looking to bring a coaching mentality to your leadership, here are some tips to help get you started.

1. In a team context, just stop the group motivational speeches and replace them with celebrations of individuals’ hard work and accomplishments. By recognizing a hardworking employee’s efforts, that employee will get the opportunity to feel valued and appreciated. This goes hand in hand with the self-determination theory which demonstrate that positive feedback motivates intentions to continue pursuing goals and fosters vitality

2. A manager with effective coaching skills does not bark orders. Instead, they will work together with employees to develop ideas and implement plans collaboratively. Once individuals take cognizance that the process through which leaders arrive at decisions is fair and well communicated, people will be more committed to a final course of action. Better yet, including employees in decision-making, goal-setting, and strategy development will lead to feelings of ownership over processes that will drive motivation even further.

3. Please don’t punish failure as it is part of the process toward success. Coaching an employee through a mistake is a much better approach. An effective leader helps their team to learn from their errors to avoid them in the future. As such it builds trust between leaders and subordinates. That is, it will create the sense of psychological safety required to admit openly one’s mistakes and ask for help and mitigate the temptation to sweep errors under the rug .

4. Try to employ a strengths-based approach to developing your staff. When employees know their strengths and can consistently build on their work from those strengths, managers and their teams can forge better-functioning workplaces. In some circles, this is often referred to as appreciative inquiry. Its benefit is that it cultivates commitment to improving the organization without imposing a problem orientation or sense of doom and gloom on employees. Rather, employees are celebrated for what they already do well and encouraged to apply these strengths in such a way that facilitates growth.

5. Essentially, effective coaches are aware of the effect that their emotions have on their coachees. Therefore, when things get ‘hot,’ they get ‘cool.’ And when things are ‘cool,’ they ramp things up. Effective leaders implicitly understand the transferability of emotions. Therefore, good leaders are careful to manage their reactions to stressful situations and will look for opportunities to generate energy and excitement when a boost is needed within a team.

6. Effective leaders demonstrate genuine concern for employees’ wellbeing and life outside of work; they take care not to overtax people’s resources or push people beyond their limits. Indeed, to earn respect, a good manager and coach leads by example and is willing to shoulder the same burdens and stressors they expect their staff to handle.

7. Exercise compassionate leadership. The act of showing compassion involves being with someone in their pain. It’s understanding another’s feelings and demonstrating a willingness to act in response to those feelings. Therefore, in the realm of coaching, compassionate leaders feel genuine pain for their employees when they’re struggling and show commitment to helping them reach their goals and find greater meaning in their work.

8. Managers with effective coaching skills employ many of the same communication and active listening techniques as professional coaches.

9. Managers Give feedback – Feedback is a two-way process. Employees must communicate any issues. You, as a coach, must respond with constructive feedback on their progress and how they can improve.

Reassure your employees, and try to keep the message positive, but don’t sugar coat it.  Feedback can be hard when the outcome isn’t going great, but you need to be straightforward and honest. You’re not doing the employee any favors if you’re not. Always remember to be encouraging and to help them through the training. Your goal is to help them grow and learn. Sometimes people need a little optimism to keep them going.

10. They Review and recalibrate – Meet a final time with your employees to look back on the project as a whole. Discuss what worked, what didn’t and what could be done differently next time. Make time to celebrate success and reward their accomplishments.

11. they know the team dynamics – As a coach you certainly don’t want to put people on a project who don’t work well together. If it’s unavoidable, help them find common ground. Ultimately, your goal is to achieve the best possible result for the company.

It all comes back to good coaching. If you’re not ready to invest your time, resources and skills to coach an individual, success is unlikely.


Coaching is there to help everyone succeed. Effective coaches inspire and listen. They build strong relationships of trust based on knowing their people and have good communication skills.

Good luck in all your endeavours.

As of old: Be EMPOWERED and EXCEL!!!

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