coaching vs mentoring

Coaching vs Mentoring the lowdown

Quite frequently, in Management the words ‘coaching’ and ‘mentoring’ are used as if they’re one and the same. They’re not. Any leader or manager can benefit from both and needs to understand how, when, and why they might be helpful.

Coaching vs Mentoring

the lowdown

Quite frequently, in Management the words ‘coaching’ and ‘mentoring’ are used as if they’re one and the same. They’re not. Any leader or manager can benefit from both and needs to understand how, when, and why they might be helpful.

While coaching and mentoring certainly share a common purpose – helping people to develop and grow – the approaches and their implementation are different in some important ways.

Coaching and mentoring each has their place, but often at different points in an individual’s journey.


coaching vs mentoring

Exploring things in common and the differences:


In common:

  • Typically through one-to-one interactions
  • Seeking to help leaders to develop and grow
  • Delivered by skilled exponents
  • Planned and impact-evaluated
  • Can be an internal or external person


  • Coaching often short-term; mentoring often longer
  • Coach asks questions; mentor advises and guides
  • Coach need not have similar role experience
  • Mentor needs to be more experienced in similar role/sector
  • Mentoring typically relates to professional development


coaching vs mentoring

Who is a Coach and who is a Mentor?

The coach

Coaches have a set of skills and capabilities that may not occur naturally in an individual. A good coach is generally one who has been trained in specific skills and techniques of questioning, listening and prompting reflection. Essentially, coaching is non-directive – unlike the mentor, it is not the coach’s place to advise or instruct, but to ask questions and encourage the individuals they are coaching to find their own answers.


To Coach or to Mentor?

How to decide what your team member will benefit from most?

Have a look at typical Coachee and Mentee differences. Can you recognise your team member in one or the other? Maybe both?

The mentor

The mentor is a more experienced guide and adviser with relevant professional and sector knowledge, passing it on to a less experienced mentee. This is common practice in professional organisations, sometimes under the banner of ‘supervision’. It is particularly helpful to a new leader, less experienced professional or someone promoted to a more senior position where so much can be new and unfamiliar. The leader is typically unprepared for the protocols, techniques and some aspects of relevant knowledge and skills. A mentor is generally there to provide wisdom, build confidence and give a guiding hand, so that mentor needs to possess not only the appropriate and relevant experience, but also the communication skills, patience and approach to help their mentee to develop their understanding, skills and – often – their career. Mentoring is therefore commonly used in succession planning, to prepare an individual for the ‘next step’ and support them afterwards.

coaching vs mentoring

As a leader, do I need a Coach or Mentor?

In the realm of leadership and management, every leader can benefit from having both a coach and a mentor. Here’s why.

The higher up the ladder you are the more likely everyone stops telling you the truth and starts telling you what they think you want to hear. A coach can provide a mirror to help you see yourself unbiased, and a Mentor will provide the wisdom and advice to help you develop. Together they can help you achieve one of the greatest capabilities any leader and manager can have – the ability to see yourself clearly and really understand your impact on those around you.

We hope you found this article useful, please share it if you know someone who may benefit from reading it, or browse Coaching and Mentoring courses we offer here. All our courses are fully accredited by the CMI.


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