Coaching vs Mentoring: The Key Differences

Did you start your career thinking that coaching and mentoring are the same thing?

Yep. Me too.

That’s probably because people often use the words ‘mentoring’ and ‘coaching’ interchangeably. Even now, one of the most frequent questions that I am asked as a coach is, ‘what’s the difference between a coach and a mentor?’

Despite what most people might think, there is a big difference between a mentor and a coach and they do not describe the same type of working relationship.

What is Coaching?

In a coaching relationship, there is a specific focus on improving performance and achievement, whether that’s in business, career, or life and this relationship usually has a fixed time span. I like to think that everyone has more potential than they realise and coaching is simply a process that unlocks that potential and maximises their performance.

What is Mentoring?

Mentoring is relationship too and often focuses on a person’s future professional and career development. The mentor is usually an experienced individual who shares their knowledge, skills and life experience to guide a less experienced ‘mentee’.  

What’s the Difference Between Coaching and Mentoring?

Mentoring is a long-term process focused on supporting the growth and development of the mentee. Coaching, on the other hand, is usually a more formal structure, for a shorter period of time and is focused on performance driven. 

In today’s modern coaching and mentoring in the workplace, organisations are turning to both mentors and coaches to form part of their professional and personal development programs for employees.

That’s great news because engaging a coach or mentor in the workplace can:

  • Enhance existing development programs
  • Assist onboard new leaders
  • Develop high potential employees
  • Support succession planning 
  • Expand diversity and inclusion
  • Increase engagement and retention
  • Drive business growth and innovation

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