The 5 Most Important Ways Mentoring And Coaching Differ

Mentoring is one of the most powerful personal development and empowerment tools available to guide people to progress in their paths of personal and professional growth. More than simply being a guided instruction, mentoring is a partnership between mentor and protégé who work in a similar field or share related life experiences in order to develop solutions to career related issues and challenges aided by a helpful relationship based upon mutual trust and respect.

Mentoring And Coaching_suzzanne uhland
Image courtesy of Brian Ujiie at

Coaching is defined as “a process that enables learning and development to occur and thus performance to improve. To be a successful a Coach requires a knowledge and understanding of process as well as the variety of styles, skills and techniques that are appropriate to the context in which the coaching takes place”. Coaching takes an approach of focusing on helping the “coachee” discover answers for themselves and figure things out on his own.

Mentoring and coaching both have many benefits, such as facilitating the explorations of needs, motivations, skills, desires, thoughts and ideas to aid individuals into making fruitful changes or guiding them in a specific direction to make the most out of their potential. Ultimately this is what all of it is about, enhancing the knowledge, skills and abilities of people so that they can increase their success in performing the tasks in which they are being coached or mentored in.

Many people find both of these terms to be interchangeable, but there are a few key differences that set both of these practices apart from each other. Here can see some of the main differentiations between coaching and mentoring:

Tasks versus relationship.

Coaching is more of a task-oriented activity. The guidance is geared towards rectifying or enforcing a particular skill such as effective speaking, learning to make more strategic decisions or deciding a better direction in a career path. These processes of course, requires an expert who is able to teach the coachee, how to best harness these skills.

While coaching takes this task specific approach, mentoring goes about it in the opposite manner. Mentoring focuses more on building a relationship to provide the mentee with a safe environment where he or she is able to share concern for the issues that may affect his personal and professional success. It is common to set specific goals and benchmarks in order to gain motivation looking at particular tasks to be achieved, but this is simply part of the bigger picture and doesn’t stop there. Creating a relationship includes things such as work/life balance, self-confidence, self-perception, and how the personal influences the professional.  


Mentoring_suzzanne uhland_Coaching
Image courtesy of Brian Ujiie at

Length of the intervention.

Coaching for the most part has a short-term approach. The coach only stays with the coachee for as long as is necessary in order to achieve the purpose of the intervention. This may take a few sessions, but it will most likely be a short-term relationship.

Mentoring on the other hand, requires time to be spent building a relationship between both parties so they can learn about one another and thus form an environment of trust in which the mentee can feel safe to disclose the real issues that influence their achievements. An average mentoring relationship can last about nine months to a full year.

Performance and development.

Coaching’s purpose is to enhance and improve an individual’s performance on their particular occupation. This process involves either improving on existing skills or acquiring news ones. Once this is accomplished, the coach is no longer needed.

Mentoring is actually development driven. The purpose of this approach is to prepare the individual beyond their current job and into their future as a person and as a professional.

The design process or lack thereof.

Coaching can be conducted starting almost immediately and requires no prior design required. Obviously there are instances in which some design is necessary, especially when the coaching is supposed to be give to a large group of individuals. Regardless of this, the effort that goes into choosing methods of approach is relatively short.

Meanwhile, mentoring requires of a relatively lengthy design phase. It is important to identify key areas to improve upon in order to make the most of the relationship. A carefully crafted design phase is instrumental in the success of the mentoring process.

Experience of the guide and management involvement.

When coaching is involved, the immediate managers of the coachee play an important role in the process. Feedback is usually shared and utilized in order to guide the coaching process. Coaches don’t always have direct experience of their coachee’s formal occupational role, unless the coaching is very specific and skill-driven.

Mentoring occurs outside of the manager’s jurisdiction so to speak. Their suggestions may be offered and accepted when going through the matching process, but do not communicate at all with mentors during the mentoring relationship. Sometimes, mentors are senior individuals in the organization who can pass on knowledge, experience and open doors to otherwise difficult to obtain opportunities.


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