What is the Difference Between Coaching and Mentoring?

29 January 2021

At Keystone, we offer a variety of courses and credentials that cover all manner of industries and topics. Some of our most popular ones are the in-depth series of coaching & mentoring webinars.

The aim of these courses is to show delegates how to understand the characteristics of a good coach or mentor, assess their natural style, identify strengths and areas for growth before adapting their coaching style. This is done by tailoring styles to specific learning methods that have been identified as effective for the coachee.

Both coaches and mentors can play a huge role in developing people both in their professional and personal lives. But is there a difference between the two, and if so, what is it?

What is a Coach?

The Oxford dictionary defines a coach as an "instructor or trainer in sport" and as "a private tutor who gives extra teaching". Both of these are, of course, correct, but when we talk about professional coaching we are discussing far more than just sports and education.

Coaching is any process whereby someone improves performance with a specific goal in mind. The private tutor may be helping a student gear up for a specific exam, or the sports coach may be helping an athlete train for a tournament.

In the workplace, the role of a coach is often fairly well defined. Performance-based goals can be set and regular meetings with the coach can take place. These are often short-term relationships with the role of coach deemed complete upon the meeting of set targets.

What is a Mentor?

By contrast, a mentor is a much less rigid role. Defined by the Oxford dictionary as 'an experienced and trusted adviser', mentors tend to have a much longer-term relationship with those they are mentoring.

Rather than focussing on predefined goals and performance-based metrics, mentors are concerned with the holistic development of the person. This could be professionally or personally.

In the workplace, mentors are often senior members of staff with plenty of experience. They then work with the mentee long term, developing skills on an informal basis.

The Key Elements of Coaching  

If you're thinking of training to become a coach, then it's important to understand the roles you will be expected to undertake.

Some key day-to-day aspects of being a coach are;

Focus on Training and Up-Skilling 

At the core of what you do as a coach is the skill set of the coachee. The areas that you are to coach on should be predefined, relevant and measurable.

Sessions are Coachee Driven

As the coach, you are responsible for allowing the coachee the space to explore issues and reach their own solutions. Of course, there is room for the coach to share information and offer feedback where appropriate, but the expectation is that coaching places ownership and therefore empowerment with the coachee. 

The Key Elements of Mentoring 

Likewise, if you are considering becoming a mentor, there are elements to the role that you will be expected to undertake. Some of these are; 

The Focus is on Advice and Guidance

When mentoring, your role focuses largely on helping those in more junior roles develop their careers and as people. Listening to problems, drawing on experience and offering advice is vital. 

You are in it For the Long Term

Unlike coaching, successful mentoring relies on the establishment of a long term trusting relationship. As the mentor, it will be largely on you to foster this.

Sessions are Mentor Driven

Unlike when coaching, mentoring sessions are driven by the mentor. Mentors are expected to be able to provide answers, introductions and direction for the mentee's immediate benefit and career progression. The mentee has the choice of what to take on board, but will generally benefit from the mentor's greater experience and business knowledge.

Synergy Between the Two

Both mentoring and coaching in the workplace have many areas in common. Despite serving different purposes and better suiting different scenarios, mentors and coaches share many traits.

Some of these are;

  • Focus on career progression
  • Establishment of trust
  • Personal and professional development 
  • Sharing of knowledge 
  • Unlocking potential 

How Keystone can Help

If you think you'd like to become a coach or mentor, get in touch with Keystone Training today. We offer a wide range of specialist courses including;

If you'd like any further information on who we are, then please read about our team and our experience. You can also check out our full list of courses and keep up to date with all the latest news from us.