Coaching and mentoring are often used interchangeably, but they are separate and individual disciplines. Knowing the difference can help you figure out what type of support you need:
What is a mentor?
A mentor is an experienced and knowledgeable person who offers support and guidance.
It’s usually someone you know through work, a membership body or another professional route.
Mentoring is a wonderful thing in business. For a mentor, it’s fulfilling to share your knowledge and expertise with someone who can benefit from your journey. And as a mentee, you gain a safe space to ask questions, explore options and learn from your mistakes.
Mentoring is well-suited to career development because it’s all about setting goals and objectives, taking action and getting results. It’s separate from your manager and team, so you can take advantage of an outside perspective and share without fear of judgment.
Mentoring relationships can be ad hoc or part of a structured, regular programme.
What is a coach?
A coach is a person trained in questioning techniques, goal-orientated frameworks and interpreting conversations and behaviour.
In a world where everyone seems to have become a coach, it’s easy to forget that coaching is a skill. It’s not just having a helpful chat, it’s quite the opposite.
A coach doesn’t tell you what to do. The person being coached leads the coaching relationship. The coach is there to create a safe environment for the conversation and help you to unlock your potential. Coaching conversations focus on setting goals, unpicking tricky issues, and exploring solutions.
This style of thinking, questioning, and listening can be transformational. That’s when you know you’ve got a great coach.
What’s the difference between mentoring and coaching?
It’s actually quite a big difference even though both terms are often used interchangeably.
The main difference is that coaching is self-directed by the coachee whereas mentoring is guided by the mentor.
A mentor is an expert in a specific field, whereas a coach can be an expert in any field – or even just an expert in coaching.
Where it can seem confusing, is that a mentor may use a coaching approach and coaching questions. But, if they are bringing their knowledge and experience to the conversation and using this to guide you, then this is mentoring.
Mentoring and coaching are not counselling
Coaching and mentoring focus on the future. Counselling is about the past and traumatic situations. In most cases, mentoring conversations focus on work and not your personal life.
The intimate nature of coaching and mentoring conversations can be perceived as a form of counselling but it’s important that these boundaries are clear. I’ve heard mentoring jokingly referred to as therapy (I even have this as a testimonial), but these are separate disciplines. And anyone wishing to resolve past trauma should be signposted to a professional, trained counsellor.
The difference between mentoring, coaching, consulting, training and counselling
When we bring training and consulting into the mix, it can seem confusing. Here’s a guide to how each of these disciplines differ in requirements and outcomes:
|The requirement||The outcome|
|Mentoring||You need guidance from someone who’s been where you are in your career journey and can help you get to where you want to be||A mentor will share their experiences and guide you towards your goals|
|Coaching||You need a framework and prompts to work towards a specific goal||A coach will use a framework for you to identify and shape your goals and actions|
|Consulting||You need someone to tell you how to resolve a business challenge based on their professional expertise||A consultant will provide options and recommendations|
|Training||You want to learn a new skill or update your knowledge||A trainer will tell and show you what to do|
|Counselling||You want to resolve past trauma or be supported through a traumatic situation||A counsellor will work with you through conversation to resolve your issues|
Do you need a marketing mentor?
I am a certified business coach and mentor; I have an ILM Level 5 Certificate in Coaching and Mentoring which is specifically designed for workplace coaching and mentoring.