Coaching vs mentoring: Know the difference

November 29, 2023

coaching vs mentoring

To shine and grow in professional life, people require effective and nuanced guidance and this is where coaching and mentoring come into the picture. Both are deemed vital development tools for professional growth. 

Even in grand epics like Mahabharata, instances of mentorship are plenty. Arjun had different coaches and mentors at various stages of his life. Dronacharya was both his mentor and coach for learning archery while Lord Krishna guided him on the battlefield as a true mentor during the war with Kouravas. Cut to the present times, you will witness superb examples of mentorship. Mark Zuckerberg received mentorship from Steve Jobs while Bill Gates, the Microsoft founder got his mentor in ace investor Warren Buffet.

Employees who have access to mentors or coaches gain in terms of organizational commitment, job satisfaction, career growth and more. While Coaching and mentoring are not exactly the same tools, they do have overlapping areas. Before seeking the guidance of a coach or mentor, one should be aware of the similarities and differences between Coaching vs mentoring.

Understanding the nuances of Coaching vs mentoring

Using the terms coach and mentor almost interchangeably is quite commonplace but the concepts are different. The terms are deemed interchangeable as many organisations opt for both tools and they share some overlapping areas, too. Both tools are utilized by businesses to augment employee performance, retention and boost work culture. 

However, they cannot be interchanged as their focus is quite different.  Coaching is an exploratory and discovery process. Coaching may have different aims from competency enhancement to managing change, mostly triggered by cultural priorities, foreseeable change, gap in meeting expectation, etc.  Mentoring is a more long-term and guided process, generally in between a manager and a reportee, either in the same function or even cross functional. Mentoring is a support system which ranges from adapting to a new culture, environment, role, to building functional awareness, all on the job. By using various types of mentoring and coaching programs, ventures help their employees sharpen their skills, resolve conflict areas and bring holistic growth for teams, leaders  and organisation

Who is a Coach? What is their Role?

Simply put a coach is a partner and a co-traveler, in your journey of growth. A coach works closely with the leadership team of organisations, facilitating change in a direction that the organisation and the coachee have agreed upon collaboratively. It is necessary for a coach to help leaders in self discovery, designing action plans, execute and measure progress. A coach offers often assigns specific assignments which pushes a coachee to apply and experiment new learning at the workplace.

The most powerful tool a coach uses is ‘right question’ at times to shake things up and other times to nudge solutions and actions. 

While coaches are widely hired for leaders of organisations, there are other forms of coaching as well , which may apply to different roles. A coach is meant to find out the areas of strengths and limitations in employees. Thereafter, co-creates paths and practices to enhance efficiency. Typically, organizations access such coaches when they have to meet specific goals, resolve challenges or prepare for significant growth.

The definition of a mentor and his/her role

To fathom the vital differences between Coaching vs mentoring, you must understand the definition and role of a mentor and how that differs from that of a coach. A mentor acts as the source of support, experience and wisdom for the mentee who belongs to either the same field or the general workforce. Sometimes, the mentor can also be the manager or leader in the same organization nurturing young and inexperienced employees. 

A mentor is capable of making the mentee feel assured and the latter can share their thoughts and professional issues with him/her freely. A mentor requires to be transparent and offer genuine feedback and counselling to the mentees. He/she offers a wide range of knowledge, guidance, advice to the mentee, thereby helping in removing obstacles on the latter’s professional journey. Mentors typically draw upon their professional experiences to aid mentees in finding solutions to numerous problems.

A well-crafted mentoring program helps the mentees in overcoming their limitations and builds their confidence and skills. It also strengthens the leadership capability of the mentor, paving the way for a positive ambiance in the venture.

Coaching vs Mentoring- The various types

Both coaching and mentoring can be offered in various styles. Listed below are the various kinds of coaching and mentoring used in professional setups.


  • Different types of coaching

1. Executive coaching

Executive coaching helps people in leadership roles sharpen their skill sets and become more adept in accomplishing their professional goals.

2. Integrated coaching

This kind of coaching program is embedded into other programs or events. For instance, people undergoing a management training program may need to experience some coaching sessions to implement their learning.

3. Team coaching

This type of coaching encourages productive and healthy interaction and performance between departments facing hardships in the collaborative workflow. 

4. Virtual coaching

Nowadays, the practice of imparting Virtual coaching has become pretty common, thanks to companies switching to hybrid and remote work setups worldwide. 


  • Different types of mentoring


1. One-to-One mentoring

In this process, typically a senior employee or a manager serves as the mentor. Such a mentor guides a less experienced employee in resolving diverse professional issues.

2. Group mentoring

When several mentees need mentoring in a short span of time or the mentor is coping with other responsibilities, Group mentoring sessions are the best solution.

3. Mentoring circles

In some organizations, a peer-to-peer mentoring method is implemented. In it, a number of employees join to discuss specific issues and professional experience etc.

4. Reverse mentoring

In some cases, senior employees in an entity interact with their junior to become more aware of trends and developments they are not much familiar with. This can include technological developments impacting workflow. 

Coaching vs Mentoring- learning the major differences

There are some vital differences that crop up when comparing Coaching vs Mentoring. These are:


  • Goals and Objectives

In coaching, the focus is often on attaining a specific goal. In this case, the coach is accountable for such desired outcomes. It can be to strengthen leadership maturity ,improving relationships with stakeholders, it can be to build readiness for a new/expanded role. In mentoring, the focus is more on helping people navigate developing professional relationships and connections, support in enhancing performance and contribute in building highly engaged teams.

  • Intensity and duration

In a discussion on Coaching vs mentoring, the duration turns out to be the major differentiating factor. Typically, a mentoring relationship tends to be far more long-term than a coaching relationship. Usually, ventures hire coaches for a limited time which can range from 1 month up to 2 years time to meet specific targets and business goals. Mentoring relationships tend to be longer.

  • Feedback and assessment

Coaching usually involves offering structured and constructive feedback to ensure coachees they can  know how to make improvements. A mentor can enlighten the mentee on feasible solutions, and highlight areas of improvement. However, it is up to the mentee to accept and deploy the suggestions and input. 

  • Measurability

Coaching assignments are contract based agreements, where it is crucial for coaches to assess, analyse, design, execute and deliver a holistic shift. Mentoring has traditionally been an organic format. Conscious organisations are now working on creating processes for mentoring programs. Yet it is the “fitting in” and “engaged” factors which remain essential to measure mentoring success.

  • Common skills

Both coaches and mentors need to develop and use certain skill sets to excel at their roles. These include empathy, active listening and seamless communication and art of asking the right question. 

Coaching vs mentoring- what are the major resemblances?

When talking about Coaching vs mentoring, it is necessary to mention the common or overlapping areas between the two tools.


Relationship building

In a venture, employees often fail to look outside of their teams and specific professional peripheries. Through effective mentoring and coaching, they can overcome such limitations.


An element of confidentiality exists in both mentoring and coaching programs. It is required to make employees feel secure, assured and supported.

Trust and respect

Mentoring and coaching both foster an environment of trust and respect. 

Skill development

Through coaching and mentoring programs, employees can improve their communication and active listening skills. 


In both mentoring and coaching, there can be a need for customisation. Professional and capable coaches and mentors resort to tweaking their methodologies to suit the needs of recipients and mentees. They adapt and tweak their methodologies to suit the requirements and level of recipients. 


What does your organisation need- Coaching vs Mentoring?

Based on the growth needs and work culture of an organisation, it may need coaching or mentoring services or a mix of both. 


When your employees need specific guidance to attain professional a professional goals target, hiring a coach becomes a prime need. 


However, to help skilled employees and leaders resolve work issues better, sharpen their skills and become better achievers, mentoring programs are needed. These also foster the way to enhance existing work culture.

 When establishing a mentoring program, it is essential to train and build readiness in mentors, so that there is absolute role clarity. Organisations are increasingly moving towards attaining certifications such as Managers as Mentors to attain such goals. 

You can find a similar course here.

Hiring the right partner for coaching services

Now that you have understood the major nuances of Coaching vs mentoring, it is necessary that you know ways to identify the right partners to offer effective coaching services for your leaders and future leaders. It makes sense to hire ace business consultantsconsultancies specialisingspecializing in offering coaching and mentorship programs. However, assess a few key metrics before you hire such a service provider.


  • Expertise

Always, assess the expertise of the firm offering mentorship and coaching services before you sign up for its services. Take time to go through facilitators’ profiles, background, certification, etc. to check if their experience align with your needs.

  • Methodologies

Make it a point to learn about the methodologies used by such an entity offering mentorship and coaching programs. Ace consultancies develop \such curated programs using tried and tested methods like employee surveys, group learning programs, experiential workshops etc.  

  • Response

Choose a consultancy firm offering specialised mentorship programs that does not delay in responding to your queries and readily offers testimonials, case-studies and references for their work.

  • Client-base

It makes sense to choose a firm offering coaching and mentorship services for a wide and diverse clientele. This ensures you get the expertise and insight required to develop your employees in the best way.  

Summing it up

The choice between Coaching vs Mentoring will depend on your organisation’s needs, work culture, and future growth prospects. Both Coaches and Mentors are crucial partners for accelerating your growth. While we must be mindful of which path to choose for employee development, nevertheless it shouldn’t be a long drawn process. Multiple researches have already indicated the undeniable impact of coaching and mentoring at the workplace.   Ensure you partner with people and firms who have the time and empathy to prioritise resolving your painpoints.


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