Mentoring and Coaching differences

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 One of the most frequent questions we get asked is what are the difference between mentoring and coaching? It is pitched as mentoring vs coaching and only one can exist.

"Should I get a mentor or a coach?"

Since we get asked this question a lot we decided to make this 2 minute video for explaining both the similarities and the subtle differences between mentoring and coaching.

There are also further details below.


Mentoring vs coaching similarities

Mentoring and coaching do share a lot of similarities so its easy to understand why the two get used interchangeably.

These are some of the similarities of mentoring and coaching.

  1. Both are measures adopted by companies to build and improve employees’ skills to actively achieve business objectives.
  2. Both are techniques companies employ to help people improve the way they work.
  3. Both help individuals: 
  • Identify and solve problems
  • Make decision and overcome obstacles
  • Implement change 


Mentoring and coaching differences

Here are some of the main differences between mentoring and coaching. We will focus on these 6 areas.

  • Development focus
  • Purpose
  • Who choses who
  • Participant's development
  • When they are used
  • Formal Accreditation


Development focus

Coaching is focused on developing a certain skillset and on accomplishing short-term performance goals (3 to 6 months). 

Mentoring is focused with advancing personal growth and facilitating the continuous improvement of a person’s capability and potential. It is focused more on the long term performance goals (6 months+)



The purpose of coaching is to assist an individual in achieving a particular set of objectives. It has a narrow focus.

The purpose of mentoring is to have a broader develop of the mentees skills such that they can make wise and smart decisions themselves. It has a broad focus.


Who choses who

In coaching, the coach is normally assigned to a person. The relationship often remains transactional.

In mentoring, often the mentee chooses their mentor. This relationship often becomes a mentor-mentor relationship that is more akin to a friendship


Development of the participants

During coaching the coach does not expect to learn from their students. The learning is often describe as one-way because the flow of guidance, help and advice is only going in one direction.

In mentoring, the mentor and a mentee relationship is reciprocal in which both parties normally learn from each other. This is often described as two-way.


When they are used.

Coaching is used when people need guidance to achieve certain objectives or execute assigned tasks. Companies employ coaches when they have identified a specific area of business improvement for their people.

Mentoring is used by individuals when they want to improve themselves more broadly. Companies use mentoring for greater objectives around making their company a great place to work and for developing general business and leadership skills for their people.


Formal accreditation

A coach normally needs accreditation which limits the number of people that can coach and therefore who can be coached. This makes it a more exclusive means of development.

As the learning is broader, mentors only need their skills and experiences. This increases the number of people that can mentor and be mentored. A company can utilise the power of its own people more effectively through a mentoring program and can reach more people.


Should I get a mentor or a coach

You can have both and, perhaps, you should have both. A mentor will help you cover a broader self development and a coach will help you in specific, targeting areas

If you do not have a mentor or a coach, we would recommend you first start with getting yourself a mentor because its good to start broad first and then narrow down as needed. A mentor will help you define your goals and help you on the path to fully achieving your full potential. The conversations and challenges will start to give you more clarity on who you are, what you want to achieve and how you can achieve it.

It is also cheaper and comes at a fraction of the cost of a coach.

Once you have a broader understanding of your goals and what you need to do to reach it you may want to complement your mentoring relationship by hiring a coach. An example could be where you have identified a specific skill set you need to learn. This is where a coach could help whether its a life coach, business coach, sales coach, career coach, leadership coach... there are a lot of different coaches out there. As a coach is more specific in the skills they are teaching, and they also come with coaching accreditations, they do cost more than a mentor. But there is a lot more accountability on you succeeding in that specific area so it is worth it.

Both a mentor and a coach are there to help you become the best you can be, they just approach the learning differently. 

If you are interested in finding a mentor and want to know more then please check out our specific mentee page by clicking here.

Interested in knowing more?

We would love to help you.