What Everyone Ought To Know About Coaching & Mentoring

The Differences Between Coaching & Mentoring

It’s understandable that you might think mentoring and coaching are similar or even the same thing.

But they’re not.

Both warrant consideration. Here are three differentiators that are important to know.

Having run successful Mentoring programs in the past, I watch as business owners expand their knowledge and confidence to try new things and listen to an “outsiders point of view” as it is much easier to see a direction from the “outside looking in”.

Source www.mentorset.org.uk
Source www.mentorset.org.uk

Differentiator #1: 

Coaching is task oriented. The focus is on concrete issues, such as managing more effectively, speaking more articulately, and learning how to think strategically. This requires a content expert (coach) who is capable of teaching the coachee how to develop these skills.

Mentoring is relationship oriented. It seeks to provide a safe environment where the mentoree shares whatever issues affect his or her professional and personal success. Although specific learning goals or competencies may be used as a basis for creating the relationship, its focus goes beyond these areas to include things, such as work/life balance, self-confidence, self-perception, and how the personal influences the professional.

Differentiator #2:

Coaching is short term. A coach can successfully be involved with a coachee for a short period of time, maybe even just a few sessions. The coaching lasts for as long as is needed, depending on the purpose of the coaching relationship.

Mentoring is always long term. Mentoring, to be successful, requires time in which both partners can learn about one another and build a climate of trust that creates an environment in which the mentoree can feel secure in sharing the real issues that impact his or her success. Successful mentoring relationships last nine months to a year.

Differentiator #3:

Coaching is performance driven. The purpose of coaching is to improve the individual’s performance on the job. This involves either enhancing current skills or acquiring new skills. Once the coachee successfully acquires the skills, the coach is no longer needed.

Mentoring is development driven. Its purpose is to develop the individual not only for the current job, but also for the future. This distinction differentiates the role of the immediate manager and that of the mentor. It also reduces the possibility of creating conflict between the mentoree and the mentor.


Training is defined in the Collins English Dictionary as the “process of bringing a person to an agreed standard of proficiency by practice and instruction.”

Training is about passing on information, skills and knowledge. Training helps people to develop cognitive skills and capabilities.

When you need to learn a new skill, you need training. Whether you pay for it or not (& you should pay for it if you want to learn the professional quick way of doing things and not pick up other people’s bad habits) then training in a particular area is often identified.

While often directive “Do it this way” training is also delivered in a coaching, facilitative style. However this does not make it coaching.

The primary difference between the two is that training imparts information and coaching draws existing knowledge and understanding out of the person concerned.

Thanks to one of the regular Mentors I use for our programs for motivating me to get this out-gotta love the Mentors! They are all around us.

Wondering whether Mentoring is right for you?
Check out some of the comments from past Mentees and Mentors, who share what they learnt and feel about about their relationships.
I can see how much they have progressed from their graduation as well- the learning continues!

5 responses to “What Everyone Ought To Know About Coaching & Mentoring”

  1. Sue I don’t know where you got this information from but anyone qualified in the professional coaching industry and coaches in your network and even professional mentors will tell you that in the main it is just not correct!

    There is so much misunderstanding around what coaching is and what mentoring is, even though they often overlap.

    Can I suggest you visit http://www.lifecoachingprofessionally.com where you can read how coaching, mentoring and other similar professions compare and are different. You can find similar information on numerous websites about coaching and mentoring.

  2. On re-reading this article (which I should have done in the first place) my apologies.

    What it seems to be talking about is coaching in the context of sports coaching or performance coaching as used in business, not life coaching which is something quite different although often incorporated.

    Life coaching is not necessarily task oriented and can be a long relationship just like mentoring, providing a safe space for the client to grow and develop. It also facilitates the client to their own conclusions rather than, unless requested, giving specific advice

    The definition of mentoring is traditionally working with someone who has successfully been there and done that and can give specific advice from that position. In several mentoring programs I have been part of I have had no actual experience of the Mentees business, so it has really been coaching with suggestions and advice thrown in. And that has worked very well.

    In any event, I agree these programs are invaluable for small business people as the results show, however they are presented – coaching or mentoring.

    So again my apologies for shooting from the hip on this, but as a professional life and business coach of over 15 years experience, I just couldn’t step over this article without responding.

    • Sue Heins says:

      Thank you Wendy,

      Yes this article refers to Business Coaching & Business Mentoring.
      Personal coaching is an entire different concept and doesn’t apply to this at all, though it’s also very important.

      Some business I meet are really in need of a business coach whilst others really need training. Some need mentoring as well depending on their needs which can be confusing for those who haven’t tried them before.

      Love your work Wendy – you were my coach when I was getting Inspiring Women in a certain direction and I can absolutely say personal coaching is an invaluable tool.

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