Monday, July 8, 2013

The Difference Between Mentoring and Coaching

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A typical point of confusion I often come across is around the difference between mentoring and coaching. Indeed those terms are usually used interchangeably. There are many explanations already out there comparing the two activities but would like to share my perspective as well:

  1. The biggest difference is that coaching is usually targeted toward a specific skill. Just as in a sports you work with a coach to improve one area.  Mentoring's scope is much broader than that. With mentoring your aim is to improve someone's life and support their growth as a professional and as a person. You could consider coaching more tactical and mentoring more strategic.
  2. In other words, coaching is about skill development. Mentoring is about personal and career development.
  3. The time frame around coaching is shorter and dependent upon how long it takes for someone to improve a skill whereas mentoring can last years or even span decades because topics discussed are as broad as life itself.
  4. In mentoring the agenda is set by the mentee. The mentor generally has much more life and career experience than the mentee. With coaching the coach brings particular expertise and drives the discussions specifically to improve the targeted skill.
  5. Coaching can be done by a direct line manager in the hopes of improving an employee's aptitude whereas mentoring should be done by someone outside of the mentee's reporting structure. This will encourage a more open and confidential environment.
  6. Outside of the immediate manager's coaching role, coaching is done more often for pay by the coach as compared to mentoring which is done for free (or preferably in exchange for something a mentee could provide but not money).

While mentoring and coaching involve many of the same skills on the coach/mentor's part they are really two different activities with different focus, goals and time frames.


Aurora said...

Hi Alan, I am looking for some brainstorming rather then either coaching or mentoring. Is that a possibility? Jackie

OnMentoring said...

Hi Jackie,

Thanks for your question. Sure. I don't have an email address for you. Could you contact me at: and let me know a little bit more about your question?