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Coaching vs Mentoring: What’s the Difference?

Coaching and mentoring are effective personal and professional development tools. Employees with mentors or coaches are likely to report higher job satisfaction, organizational commitment, compensation, and promotions.

In this article, we’ll delve into the similarities and differences between mentoring and coaching and how companies can take advantage of both practices in their organizations.

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What is a coach?

A coach acts as a guide for the leaders or future leaders of an organization. By assessing goals and monitoring operations, the coach determines what avenues the organization’s leaders must take to achieve its mission. The coach provides a set of tasks to follow and continues to assess how they can best get the organizations on the right track for success.

The role of a coach

A coach will drive growth by identifying strengths and weaknesses in an employee and finding ways to address those weaknesses while improving their resilience. Often, the organization reaches out to a coach when they have a specific challenge to tackle or a goal to meet. The coach will devise a plan for helping the employee succeed with that particular challenge or goal.

The types of coaching

Coaching can take on many different formats. According to the Center Of Creative Leadership, integrating the following formats can help create a well-rounded, supportive learning culture in an organization:

Executive coaching

This kind of coaching supports leaders in transitioning out of an individual contributor and into a role responsible for a team’s results.

Integrated coaching

This type of coaching typically takes place as part of a broader initiative. For example, a participant that goes through a management training program may have several coaching sessions to reflect and apply what they have learned into practice.

Team coaching

Team coaching can encourage healthy interaction and performance amongst teams struggling to work together, whether through structured sessions or facilitating discussions.

Virtual coaching

Virtual coaching has become increasingly common in an era where hybrid and remote work are widespread norms. Companies can also use the lack of geographical restraint as an advantage, as they can now pair coaches with employees from the other side of the world.

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Advantages and disadvantages of coaching

With a coaching program, companies can point to specific skills they would like employees to develop (and hone in) on, tailoring it to their particular circumstances.

Having a coach that isn’t necessarily a company employee can also be beneficial because they see things from an objective and outside perspective. They can provide a more honest assessment and introduce new ideas that encourage innovation.

However, coaching requires more skill, time, and resources than mentoring. An effective coach must be a good teacher and actively involved in the employee’s learning and progress.

When to use coaching

Coaching is best employed when the company has a specific goal or outcome. For example, a new executive team might have yet to have extensive public-facing experience in their previous roles. As a result, the company hires a coach to get them up to speed on that specific aspect of their job.

man and woman having coffee during mentoring session

What is a mentor?

A mentor is a source of support, wisdom, and experience for their mentee, who often has less experience in a similar field, skill, or general workforce. Preferably, a mentor is not the mentee’s manager or supervisor but someone around whom the mentee can let their guard down and share their professional hopes, concerns, and expectations. In turn, the mentor is equally transparent and provides honest feedback and counsel when mentees need it the most.


The role of a mentor

A mentor provides guidance, advice, and knowledge to the mentee, illuminating a path toward success and fulfillment in the mentee’s chosen career. Mentors draw upon their experiences and expertise to help their mentees navigate a clear road toward career goals.

Mentors act as sounding boards for mentees, someone they can bounce ideas off of and expand their ideas of what it means to be a part of the organization. Having gone through similar experiences when achieving their career goals, mentors can offer much-needed empathy to the professional relationship.

A well-executed mentoring program builds the mentee’s confidence and skills, fosters the mentor’s leadership strength, and creates a positive change for the organization.


Types of mentoring

Mentoring can take on many different formats, but the following are the most common:

One-on-one mentoring

This is the most common type of mentoring, where a senior employee acts as the mentor to a less experienced employee. With career mentoring, the mentor acts as a guide and provides a source of support to the mentee as they progress in their careers.

Group mentoring

Not every senior employee has the capacity (or inclination) to mentor junior employees, and in some instances the demand for mentors outweighs the supply. Group mentoring can solve this by assigning multiple mentees to one mentor.

Mentoring circles

Some companies have found success in incorporating this peer-to-peer mentoring style. With mentoring circles employees come together to discuss or learn about a specific issue or topic related to personal hobbies, professional experience or a shared background.

Reverse mentoring

Senior employees can benefit from learning a thing or two—from their junior counterparts—when it comes to issues and practices they aren’t as close to. In reverse mentoring, younger employees are much more likely to be earlier adopters of new technological practices.

Learn about other types of mentoring in the workplace that can lead to improve employee connection, performance and productivity.

Advantages and disadvantages of mentoring

Companies can gain a lot from a mentoring program. It provides the framework for employees to cultivate professional relationships and a support network, encourages a supportive learning culture, and ultimately improves job performance.

One advantage of mentoring over coaching is its flexibility. While coaching requires a significant time commitment, mentoring can take up as much time (or as little) as the participants need.

The flexible nature, however, can also be a disadvantage. Unlike coaching, mentoring can be less effective in driving specific outcomes and objectives because there isn’t typically a specific goal.

When to utilize mentoring

While coaching excels in achieving specific short-term goals, mentoring works best as an ongoing long-term practice. Its purpose is to let employees grow over time. Unlike coaching relationships, it doesn’t necessarily have an endpoint. It can develop and change over the years as the mentee develops skills and continues to grow within the organization.


The Difference Between Coaching and Mentoring

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Goals and Objectives

A coaching relationship is between the coach and an employee or senior leader in pursuit of a specific goal or required skill, where the coach is responsible for the desired outcomes. In mentoring, the relationship is based on relationship building and connection. Still, the ROI for a mentoring program can be huge for an organization’s bottom line.

Duration and Intensity

A mentoring relationship is long-term compared to a coaching relationship. Companies employ coaches for the short-term, focused on achieving specific outcomes or goals. Mentoring relationships are usually at minimum six months, and could run for several years, helping employees grow over time.

Roles and Responsibilities

A coach’s primary role and responsibility is to help employees get better at a particular skill. Conversely, mentors use their experience working in your specific organization to empower and educate mentees.

Focus and Scope

In a coaching relationship, the responsibility rests with both the coach and employees. In mentoring, the mentor’s job is to provide guidance and support, but accountability remains with the mentee.

Feedback and Evaluation

Coaching typically involves providing constructive feedback so that the employee can make specific improvements. Conversely, a mentor can advise the mentee on what to do, but it’s up to the mentee what to do with that advice.


Similarities between Coaching and Mentoring

Relationship building

Within an organization, there’s often a tendency to stick to one’s team and silo. Mentoring and coaching allow employees to expand their professional network beyond that silo.


There’s an expectation of confidentiality in both coaching and mentoring relationships. Provided that the coaches and mentors respect that, it can go a long way in helping employees feel supported.

Trust and respect

Mentoring and coaching provide an environment where all participants can experience (and practice) trust and respect and be themselves.

Communication and listening skills

Mentoring and coaching allow employees to practice communication and listening skills regularly, which can only benefit them in their day-to-day roles.

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Is Coaching or Mentoring Right for You?

Now that you understand the difference between coaching vs. mentoring, you will hopefully have a better sense of what your organization needs. Are there specific goals you’re trying to achieve? Or could your organization’s employees use direction, better connections, and guidance?

You may need a hybrid of both. Depending on the challenges your organization is currently experiencing, you now have a greater understanding of the options available.

Whatever your needs, Chronus mentoring software can help you implement the right program to suit your organization. From AI-powered technology to impact reports that show the returns from your coaching and mentoring initiative, Chronus makes it easy to automate and scale your coaching and mentoring programs.

Coaching and mentoring can go a long way in improving your employee’s performance and satisfaction at work. Take the initiative, and your organization will reap the rewards.

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