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March 02, 2016

Q&A: What is Coaching VS Mentoring?


Especially if you’re new to the concept of coaching, you may be wondering: What’s different about coaching vs mentoring? Most people are familiar with mentoring and may have even experienced it first-hand, either as a mentor or a mentee. But what about coaching? How is it different, if at all?


Although there is some overlap, coaching and mentoring are indeed distinct from each other.

Here are eight qualities that generally distinguish coaching vs mentoring:

Coaches are partners, while mentors are advisors: The coach and client relationship is one of equal partners. The mentor and mentee dynamic, on the other hand, isn’t as flat. A mentor tends to hold the position of a higher-level and longer-tenured leader who takes the position of an advisor or guru.

Coaches draw wisdom out of their clients, while mentors impart wisdom: Coaches are trained to not give advice or provide answers, but to use skills like questioning, acknowledging and championing to help the client rely on their own wisdom. Mentors, rather, pass along valuable wisdom they’ve gained along the way.

Coaches do more asking than telling, while mentors do more telling than asking: Coaches are securely in a stance of curiosity, utilizing questions that are meant to elicit deeper thinking and realizations from the client. Coaches might occasionally pose actions or options, but defer to what resonates most with the client and their goals. Mentors do more telling, as they offer advice that flows from their own particular successes, failures and development.

Coaches facilitate the self-directed learning of their clients, while mentors are directive in offering solutions: Coaches help create and hold the space for clients to discover and incorporate new learning for themselves. Mentors create learning opportunities by offering solutions for their mentees.

A coach helps a client see and leverage what they already know, while a mentor helps provide new insights: Coaches help clients recognize their existing resourcefulness and creativity, and put that to use more boldly in their lives. A mentor brings in new insights and information to add to the toolbox of the mentee.

Coaches help expand the range of options and possibilities, while mentors look to the options and pathways they personally pursued as an example: Coaches take clients from a place of limited options to one of multiple options. They illuminate possibilities clients couldn’t previously see for themselves. Mentors help inspire mentees by giving them a picture of their own particular journey.

Coaches help clients identify and commit to new practices, while mentors share best practices: Coaches are oriented towards getting the client into action, and holding them accountable to incorporating new practices, habits and ways of thinking. Mentors share proven best practices from the area in which they are experts, and help mentees incorporate these concepts into their approach.

Coaches focus on the self-awareness of their clients, while mentors focus broadening a mentee’s awareness of a challenge, industry, or pathway: Coaches help clients learn more about themselves, including their values, purpose, strengths and weaknesses. Mentors help mentees become more savvy and equipped to navigate a particular situation or setting.

(Caveat: The above points are broad generalizations to help clarify and illustrate differences. But, as with most generalizations, they aren’t true in every case.)

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