Coaching and mentoring: What’s the difference?

Some of the latest thinking suggests there is little benefit in thinking of coaching and mentoring as being different from one another. A mentor will use a lot of coaching techniques. However, there is a different emphasis on the amount of ‘knowledge transferral’ and ‘direction’ that may be involved.



A coach does not, typically, need any knowledge of the subject being coached whilst the mentor uses their past experience and knowledge to help guide the person they are mentoring.


A manager can use a ‘coaching style’ with their team members. A coaching style of management is less directive and encourages team members to take responsibility for their own performance and professional effectiveness.


A mentoring relationship is usually longer term and is designed to help the person being mentored to capitalise on future opportunities or overcome past problems. The mentor will draw on past experience to pass on their knowledge and provide a degree of guidance in a particular direction.


Traditionally, you should not mentor someone you manage. The role of a mentor is to be a trusted guide; someone the person being mentored can turn to for advice and career guidance.


Both coaching and mentoring are proactive, and whilst more advice and guidance is usually given in the mentoring relationship, the techniques and approaches are very closely aligned.


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