The distinct differences between coaching and mentoring

Published: October 12, 2017 / One Comment

Difference between coaching and mentoring

“A mentor has some great answers for your questions. A coach has some great questions for your answers.”

For organisations looking to develop their employees, coaching and mentoring can both be very effective techniques. But, while the terms “coaching” and “mentoring” are often used interchangeably, there are in fact some quite distinct differences between the two. The table below serves to explain 10 of the most important ones:

Mentoring Coaching
The relationship To be really successful, the mentor and mentee need to develop “rapport”. Often, they even become friends. “Rapport” is not as important as “partnership”, although the client needs to be comfortable with being “open and honest”
The duration An ongoing relationship that can last for a long time. Short-term, sometimes time bounded
The structure More informal, with meetings taking place as and when the mentee needs guidance or support Generally more structured in nature and meetings will be scheduled on a regular basis
The agenda The agenda is set by the mentee with the mentor providing support and guidance to prepare them for future roles or specific skills development. The agenda is set by the client and is focused on achieving specific, immediate goals.
The scope Revolves around developing the mentee professionally, particularly regarding his or her skills and their application to the specific work context. Revolves around specific personal development areas or issues, perhaps related to behaviour, attitudes or self-awareness.
The focus More long term and takes a broader view of the person. Focused on specific current development areas or issues.
The roles Heavy on listening, role modelling, making suggestions and connecting. Non-directive – allowing the client to lead the way and access their own internal resources to forge the way ahead.
The experience needed Mentor has more experience within the organisation, and is able to give the mentee a “big picture” view of the latter’s role therein. Coach does not need to have direct experience of the coachee’s formal occupational role.
The tools Diagnostic tools are not often used. Profiling tools (e.g. 360-degree feedback, personality questionnaires) are frequently used to offer alternative insights.
The goal To broadly develop the mentee in all areas; used when a company wants to create a workforce that balances the professional and the personal To achieve specific, immediate goals; used when a company is seeking to develop its employees in specific competencies.

Interested in learning more about coaching and mentoring, and how these skillsets can be used to craft the leaders of tomorrow? SACAP offers a range of coaching courses, including the two-year Post Graduate Diploma in Coaching, and the five-month Coach Practitioner Programme. To find out more, enquire now.

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  1. John Paisley

    A comment: while the differentiation is ok, it is a little out of date – mentoring has “moved on” and is much more varied than the above description. Example is that mentoring can be short term – around a special issue or competency….Mentoring has become far more specialised than the above broad description.

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