What’s the difference between a mentor and a coach?

There is a misconception that both the roles of mentor and coach are the same. They have similarities for sure, such as developing your knowledge and life skills but they are also very different in the way they work. 

A coach and a mentor both want the same end result, to see their client fulfil their potential, but the process of how they get to this result differs greatly. A coach will repeat their sessions with many others, without having to change the content, whereas a mentor will need to adapt to each individual’s personal circumstance.

In order to get the best result you need to ensure you are choosing the right path – Mentor or Coach. Set out your objectives of what you hope to achieve and decide what method is best for you.

Clutterbuck (2004)

Mentoring isn’t a ‘quick fix’, it can take many sessions over a period of time, possibly years. The mentor needs to get a good understanding of your life and the challenges and obstacles which you face. In order to do this they create an informal environment getting to know you on a personal level, gaining your trust and often digging deep into your emotions to get a good understanding of you. A mentor bases their advice on their own life experiences, often sharing their stories and knowledge they have gained. They have walked in your shoes, been there, done it, got the T-shirt and now they can advise you! Mentors are good listeners, taking on board your feelings, dreams and aspirations in order to give the best guidance possible. This enables you to see things from another perspective, knowing that someone has been through the same situation as yourself and achieved things which you thought you could only dream of. Sessions are driven by you, you tell your mentor what you want to achieve and they support you to get there. They will encourage you to consider your opportunities to reach your potential.

Due to the close relationship which is built between a mentor and mentee and over a long period of time, more often than not long lasting friendships are formed. A mentor will support you to be open to learn from experiences rather than tell you what to do or how to do it.

Coaching is usually driven by performance and on a more professional and impersonal level than a mentor. They will teach you from the knowledge they have learned without necessarily sharing their stories of how they came to understand. Coaching is usually over shorter set periods of time, sessions are often structured and are not necessarily specific to a particular individual. A coach will challenge you and encourage you to get to your objective but they will do this without knowing your background and usually without sharing their personal insights. They will evaluate your progress in order to see your achievements, whereas a mentor would simply see the change in you and guide you in the right direction. 

A coach doesn’t necessarily need to have worked in the same industry as you, as their sessions are usually built upon getting results and increasing your performance rather than your development, which can be adapted to various industries. Due to this a coach will be the one driving the sessions which differs from mentoring.

Depending on you as an individual you may respond better to coaching than mentoring or vice versa. Some prefer to be taught and told what needs to be done rather than learn from experiences and failures. Some may prefer not to open up and share experiences. 

I hope we have given you an insight into the difference.

I’m a mentor for sure and absolutely love it. Seeing the transformation in someone, their confidence increase and hand holding them through their challenges really makes my day. Helping them gain clarity, boost their knowledge and skills makes me so happy!



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