Mentoring or Coaching what is the Difference

Although coaching and mentoring are distinctly different, these two disciplines may appear, at first glance, to be quite similar. Coaches and mentors both work with individuals to help them succeed in life through acquiring a skill set designed to assist in achieving a set of specific objectives. Both coaching and mentoring involve a level of commitment between two people to connect with each other on a regular basis for the purpose of working on specific goals designed to meet the needs of the client. So how does a person know whether a coaching or mentoring relationship will best suit his needs?


If an individual is looking for help from someone who has shared similar experiences or has a special expertise in a given field, he will contact a mentor. Mentors offer guidance based largely on their own experiences. They are often a part of the old and wiser population that has “been there done that.” Mentors have a narrow focus and will frequently influence their protgs, based upon their own familiarity with the subject matter.

Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) provides a good example of an organization that uses mentors. Each chapter of MOPS includes one or more older women who have raised their children and can provide guidance and support to young moms just starting their families. These older women are referred to as “mentor moms.”

Most mentors make themselves available on a volunteer basis through service organizations and local churches. A mentor relationship is one that may be long-standing and be revisited off and one throughout several years.


A coach is not required to have hands-on personal experience to offer his services. Although he may have personal preferences in almost any subject he coaches, his job is to offer objective guidance. A coach does not tell his client what choice to make. Instead, he offers the tools and information necessary for the individual to make his own decisions. A coach teaches his clients how to develop “cause-and-effect” critical thinking skills necessary to weigh options and make informed decisions.

A leadership coach, for example, will provide a bulk of information about leadership and management styles while assisting his client to embrace the techniques that will interface the best with his personality, performance ethic, and workplace. Coaches usually contract their services for a specified period of time, ending the relationship when the agreed upon number of sessions has been reached or the identified objectives met.

Coaching or Mentoring? Both provide ample opportunities for personal growth and development as well as improved work performance. One of them may be right for you. Which one will it be?