Is there a difference between a mentor and a coach?

It is undeniable that the hype around coaching and mentoring is real: people hear a lot about both things, especially under today’s fast-paced and stressful circumstances. However, as the saying says, plenty of people have managed to go further that they thought they could just because someone else firmly believed they could. Although the terminology, and the words «mentoring» and «coaching», are seemingly—and often used—interchangeable, reality dictates otherwise; however, one thing is certain: both mentors and coaches can get to be highly meaningful and worthwhile resources. But, what is the difference between these two? And, moreover, how can people know which one they really need?

Image courtesy of Pixabay at

Suzzanne Uhland has already mentioned valuable things about mentoring and different approaches to finding the right one irrespective of the stage; nonetheless, it is wise to first determine the distinction between mentors and coaches. Normally, or at least how tradition has previously shown, mentors were commonly assigned within a corporate organization to help its employees get acquainted with their roles. Today, and as of the emergence of the fourth industrial revolution and the digital era, mentors have shifted towards a more holistic approach and act as mere advisers regardless of whether they receive any kind of compensation or not.

Today’s most common connotation around mentors is that they embody successful persons who are always willing to share what they have learned and the wisdom they have acquired throughout their lives to provide accurate and useful insights to entrepreneurs and pretty much anyone willing to listen. One key aspect, nonetheless, is that they function differently: they always stay in a reactive-expecting position, helping people once they come across any sort of challenge. Thus, and even though a mentor may not have enough expertise in the mentee’s field, they are quite proficient at navigating the corporate world and the business field.

And that is an overall view of the mentoring end. Coaches, on the other hand, often have enough expertise in a particular field, and most of the times such expertise matches the field of the people they are helping. In general, coaches possess several certifications and strong and solid management skills. In the corporate world, coaches play a vital role in supporting different CEOs or venture capitalists as well as entrepreneurs. Their main function is to help them foresee any possible challenge in the upcoming future and come up with effective ideas on how to proceed and tackle them as they arise. Their nature, all in all, is somewhat proactive: coaches definitely enjoy participating and coming up with ideas that may help their customers and their coachees.

The intricacies of the relationship between a mentor and a mentee are rather open-ended: it can last for decades, whereas regular and traditional coaching happens for one specific reason, and once the issue has been addressed or solved, the relationship normally ends.

Which seems like the wisest choice?

After considering the aforementioned aspects in regard to the different intricacies of both relationships, people should already know which type of relationship suits them best and which would serve a much greater purpose; nonetheless, it is wise to consider the following aspects as well:

working_planning_mentoring program
Image courtesy of Unsplash at

Consider where are you now

Perhaps, one of the greatest factors, if not the most important, is the stage of the journey. An entrepreneurship enthusiast seeking to thrive in her or his business often needs a mentor who can provide guidance as to how to overcome basic challenges and how to tackle the issues that often arise when establishing a business. At this point, a mentor seems to be quite a good choice given the fact that they can provide a much wider spectrum of advice and connections that might come in handy for the business. As businesses grow, they tend to get more uncanny, and issues become more nuanced than in early stages. Once the business has reached this point, working alongside a coach seems a much better idea, especially if the coach also happens to work in the same industry; thus, the coachee will get a much better perspective towards the future.

Name your needs

Irrespective of the stage of the journey, if a particular individual has already identified a specific need, the wisest choice leans towards working alongside a coach. 

For example, if a startup or an already-established company is experiencing corporate development difficulties, which in turn prevent the company from scaling its business, a coach with expertise in such field will certainly be much better; however, if the same individual has not identified and named specific needs, and all she or he needs is proper guidance, a mentor would serve a much better purpose.






Keeping remote workers in the loop with mentors

Mentoring has become a hot topic in many companies, but what makes this different from the coaching trend that has been around for a while and how can this help us increase remote worker retention?

Workshifting_mentoring_suzzanne uhland
Image courtesy of Citrix Online at

First of all, let’s agree that mentors and coaches have different roles within a company, although they may seem interchangeable at times. A coach will focus on a short-term project within your company with a very specific task and objective in mind. On the other hand, a mentor will be a person who will focus on a long-term process built on mutual trust and respect. In the same light, it makes a coach formalize a more structured and formal relationship with your employees, whereas mentors have a more informal association. Because of this, you will most likely find that mentors have first-hand access to their mentees work, but instead a business coach will not need this to do his or her job.

As top priority, a business mentor will aim to help his or her mentee to hone in on their skills for their personal professional development, which will affect employees not only in their current jobs, but in the future as well. A coach will more than likely have a big impact on improving your employee’s performance at their current job. By understanding the differences, your company can decide which tasks or situations require more attention and thus defining if you’d be better off having a business mentor or coach.

Companies can use mentoring in many different ways like career development, leadership development, diversity mentoring, reverse mentoring or knowledge transfer. In career development, companies realize the importance of aligning personal professional development goals and organizational goals, and thus they open spaces to encourage a learning culture within the company where mentors and mentees can reach those goals together. When during this process you discover high potential employees you can definitely implement leadership development, which will hone in on the skills required for future leaders in your company. By pairing up diverse career paths, ages, experience and backgrounds you can impulse creativity, innovation and even gain new perspectives for business strategies by using diversity mentoring. In reverse mentoring, you will be pairing an older more experienced employee with a young and less experienced one, where the latter one will be the mentor. The idea is that this younger mentor can provide insight to trending topics in the market, technological advances and up-to-date information on the industry. Despite the fact that the younger employee is the mentor, it will always be a two-way street. Finally, knowledge transfer is great for short-term or long-term goals where companies can organize, create, capture and distribute knowledge within all the workers in a company. Since there is a direct contact with the person who is transferring the knowledge, it takes substantially less time than traditional methods.

Working breakfast_mentoring_suzzanne uhland
Image courtesy of Gord McKenna at


As a trend in 2016, more and more companies are taking on remote employees under different schemes, but at the end a concern has arisen from this new trend, which is how to engage and increase retention in an employee that hardly or never comes into the office. That’s where mentoring has, during this year, become an innovative way to maintain an open channel of communication with all employees independent of the telecommuting strategy implemented or the physical location.

Top performing companies are looking towards pairing up technology and mentoring to offer remote employees the opportunity of participating in employee development and training on their own schedule. Besides helping employees develop their careers, it can help companies improve recruitment of millennials and other top talent in the industry that are all for telecommuting solutions, but value skills development. By planning out a strategy you can ensure that the process can be tracked and you can get reports in the progress each employee has had. There are more and more alternatives to learning nowadays, so it’s well worth it to explore the options and implement them in this innovative way of letting your employees engage.

Now, the other thing you must keep in mind is who to assign to your remote employee as a mentor. There are two ways you can go about this. It will come down to how your employee is reacting towards being a remote employee. If he is really looking forward to it and wants to gain insight as to how to become better at it, it would come in handy to assign a mentor that has had a successful experience of being a telecommuting employee, so he can pass along any wisdom. On the other hand, if you have an employee that feels a little left out due to his new position, but for other reasons wants or needs to be remote, than a good choice for him or her would be to find a mentor within the company, that can keep them in the loop and can keep them connected to everyone else at the office.