How are Coaching and Mentoring Different?

Leadership Coaching

Many people confuse mentoring and coaching. Are they essentially the same? If there’s a difference, what is it? 

To confuse matters more, many people use the terms interchangeably, especially in a corporate context. 

Mentorship is indeed a powerful process in professional development, but it is in some was very distinct from coaching.

The International Coach Federation (ICF) defines coaching as: partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. The process of coaching often unlocks previously untapped sources of imagination, productivity and leadership.

Mentoring, while similar in many respects, is more directive than coaching, with the mentor providing far more guidance, advice, and direct instruction than would be common in coaching.

In this article, we’ll explore the goals and outcomes along with the processes and techniques of mentoring and coaching to help you better decide which is best for you in your leadership development. 

If you’ve never experienced coaching, the easiest way to do so is to hop on a free 15-minute initial consultation call with one of our professional coaches today!

Mentoring vs. Coaching: Goals and Outcomes

Mentoring goals and outcomes

Mentors help mentees to develop their skills and knowledge, achieve their goals, and advance in their careers. 

While this is shared with coaches, the mentor does this through far more direct instruction than would take place in coaching.

For example, a mentor might provide advice on specific topics, suggest reading materials, offer didactic instruction, or provide industry connections

Mentors provide mentees with a longer-term point-of-view on their development journey—one that includes building essential life skills, learning from an experienced professional, understanding yourself better, and gaining industry insight

Mentees may enter into a mentoring relationship with the hope that their mentor will give them specific advice for moving forward in their field or open doors to new opportunities.

Mentees may also be seeking training in a specific skill required for their professional advancement, such as confidence in public speaking, negotiation strategies, how to give a presentation, how to conduct research, or how to become a better leader.

In such cases, the mentor may give them specific public speaking tips, refer them to training courses or books, help them run through mock presentations, walk with them through a research project, etc.

As you can see, a good mentor is focused on giving direct, clear, actionable advice and teaching in the areas required by the mentee.

Coaching goals and outcomes

Coaching, as distinct from mentoring, is based on a specific conversational model that is aimed at drawing out what is already in the person being coached, helping them clarify thought processes, come to new awareness, and break through unhelpful patterns.

The main focus of a coaching session is to help clients to investigate and develop their own resources, to rethink and reshape their thinking, and to work towards achieving their life and work goals.

Most importantly, coaching often involves no directive advice from the coach. Instead, a coach provides support and guidance to help the client come to their own insights and discover their own solutions.

The goal of a coaching session is to help the client to gain clarity and understand themselves, and their motivations, better. The focus is on the present and the future, on achieving goals and personal growth

Coaching can be used in a variety of settings, including professional, personal, or even spiritual. Coaching explores how the client can develop the skills and behaviours they need to create a better life and work in line with their defined goals.

Coaches focus on helping clients to set and achieve specific goals, such as improving performance, overcoming challenges, and achieving personal and professional growth. 

A built in part of the coaching process is a system of accountability around the goals identified by the person being coached.

Summary of the differences in goals and outcomes

In summary, coaching is all about developing self-awareness and helping people to recognize and capitalise on their strengths and skills in order to reach their personal and professional goals. 

Mentoring, on the other hand, focuses on providing guidance and advice in order to help mentees achieve their goals.

Mentoring vs. Coaching: Process and Techniques

Mentoring is usually a long-term relationship that can last for months or even years, depending on the goals and outcomes of the mentee.

The mentor usually takes a more directive approach and provides guidance and advice to help their mentee reach their desired outcomes.

Mentors tend to provide mentees with specific knowledge, skills, and resources. They may assign tasks to accomplish, give feedback, suggest reading material, refer to courses, or even make career introductions.

Mentors may also work with mentees on developing skills related to professional growth, such as communication, networking, leadership, and problem-solving. They may also help mentees grow their confidence, develop resilience, and learn to self-motivate.

Techniques used in mentoring include one-on-one conversations, role-playing, reflective exercises, and guided discovery.

For example, a mentor could work with a mentee who wants to become a more confident speaker by helping them identify sources of self-doubt, exploring some of the underlying fear, and then providing specific guidance and instruction in public speaking

Coaching, on the other hand, is about unlocking potential and unleashing the person’s own inner resources and creativity.

The process of coaching entails a wide variety of conversational techniques and approaches, such as active listening, reflective questioning, goal setting, and developing action plans.

The powerful questions used in coaching can help clients gain clarity on the issue or situation and make their own decisions.

The aim of coaching is to create an environment that encourages self-discovery, new perspectives, and ultimately, strategies for success.

To give a very specific example, a coach who is working with a client may ask a series of questions, such as ‘What actions have you taken so far to reach your goal?’ or ‘What are some techniques you have used in the past to overcome a similar challenge?’ These questions are designed to encourage the client to reflect on the situation and come up with their own solutions.

A coach might use reflective questioning to help a client become more aware of their current habits and patterns, recognize underlying motivations, and develop new behaviors and approaches to achieving their goals.

Coaches carefully guide the conversation to ensure that they reach the outcomes and goals identified by the person being coached for each conversation as well the larger over-arching goals identified for a longer series of conversations.

Summary of differences of process and technique

In summary, mentoring tends to be more directive and focused on providing guidance and advice to help mentees reach their desired outcomes. 

Coaching, on the other hand, is more focused on using powerful questions designed to help clients gain clarity and make their own decisions, while also developing their own resources and unlocking


Mentoring and coaching are both valuable tools for personal and professional development, though they differ in their approaches, process and techniques.

Mentoring tends to be a long-term relationship focused on providing guidance and advice to help mentees reach their desired outcomes. This is achieved by using instructional methods such as role-playing and assigning tasks to reach specific goals

Coaching, on the other hand, is more focused on unlocking potential and unleashing the person’s own inner resources and creativity. Rather than providing direct advice, coaches use powerful questions to help clients gain clarity, make their own decisions and develop strategies for success

Which is right for you? It really depends on what you need. You should also recognize that it’s not either-or. You can easily use both and gain the benefits of both approaches. If you’d like to get a taste of coaching, be sure to book a free consultation with one of our professional coaches today.