The Similarities and Differences Between Coaching and Mentoring

JT - A coach has some great questions for your answers, a mentor has some great answers for your questions

Coaching and mentoring are a little different, however many people use these words interchangeably. Subsequently, today I wanted to discuss –

  • What is Coaching?
  • What Coaching is NOT!
  • Some Definitions on Mentoring,
  • The Differences and Similarities Between Coaching and Mentoring

Let’s get started…

What is Coaching?

The International Coach Federation (ICF) refers to coaching as 

“partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”

Coaching recognises the client as the expert in their own world (personal and professional) and knows every person is creative, resourceful, and whole.

Basically the coaching process is about identifying where you are now, where you would like to be and then close that gap. The coach does this through –

  • discovering, clarifying, and aligning with where the client wants to be,
  • encouraging self-discovery and trust within themselves,
  • eliciting client-generated solutions and strategies,
  • keeping the client accountable and ensuring they are taking responsibility for themselves
  • providing support to the client.

What Coaching is NOT!

Coaching is not –

  • a quick-fix, one size fits all approach for your current challenges (as we are all unique),
  • therapy or counseling (please seek a licensed medical professional if this is what you need),
  • about giving you advice (you are the expert in your own life),
  • financial advising or estate planning (again please seek a licensed practitioner if this is what you require).

Some Definitions on Mentoring…

There are a number of definitions of mentoring, including –

  • “someone who teaches or gives help and advice to a less experienced and often younger person” ~ Merriam-Webster Dictionary
  • “An experienced person in a company or educational institution who trains and counsels new employees or students.” ~ Oxford Dictionary
  • “a person who gives a younger or less experienced person help and advice over a period of time, especially at work or school.” ~ Cambridge Dictionary
  • “(in business) the practice of assigning a junior member of staff to the care of a more experienced person who assists him in his career” ~
  • “Mentoring involves primarily listening with empathy, sharing experience (usually mutually), professional friendship, developing insight through reflection, being a sounding board, encouraging” ~ David Clutterbuck

The Similarities and Differences Between Coaching and Mentoring

There are quite a few differences between coaching and mentoring. As this is a question many clients ask, I decided to investigate further for them. The following table identifies the differences and similarities between coaching and mentoring –


How would you summarise the difference? Maybe it can be summarised as follows:

“A coach has some great questions for your answers; a mentor has some great answers for your questions.”

Over to You…

I hope this post has given you some insight in to the differences between coaching and mentoring. What do you think? Are there any other differences or similarities you would add? If so, feel free to add them below 🙂 Also – if you have any questions or comments, please leave them below as well.

We also have the Coach’s Business Starter Toolkit as well, that helps coach’s develop their own systems and processes in their coaching business. Details are here.

References –

Palmer, S., & Whybrow, A. (2009). Handbook of Coaching Psychology – A Guide for Practitioners. New York, USA: Routledge.

Passmore, J. (2006). Excellence in Coaching – The Industry Guide. London, United Kingdom: Kogan Page.

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