Coaching vs Mentoring

Coaching and mentoring are two terms often used interchangeably with each other – and yet, there are certain gaps that need to be defined. Although they require similar skills and are both essential for personal growth, the objectives, approaches, techniques involved, and results are – most of the time – not the same. In this article, we explore the key differences between these two methods – so that you may learn to make use of them more effectively.

Quick links

Coaching vs Mentoring – Definition

Coaching and mentoring serve two distinct purposes in promoting individual growth. According to the International Coaching Federation (ICF), the former involves a partnership between a coach and a client – with the aim of sparking creative thinking and enabling the coachee to unlock their full potential, both personally and professionally.

Mentors, on the other hand, play a more direct role – they offer support while overseeing the development of those under their charge (mentees). With feedback from mentors, these mentees are better equipped to develop in their respective fields.

Based on these definitions, it’s easy to recognize that the objectives of coaching and mentoring are the same: to nurture individual development. The difference lies in the way each is delivered. Coaches take a more questioning-based approach and focus on helping coachees tackle challenges independently, while mentors offer guidance built upon their own experiences.

Coaching vs mentoring


From the graph above, we can see that mentoring focuses more on guidance and instruction – while coaching places a strong emphasis on learning through reflection and personal awareness.

Differences between Coaching and Mentoring

1. Time

Coaching is a typically short-term commitment, while mentorship usually lasts longer. Specifically, coaches aim to produce tangible results within 6 – 12 months – whereas mentors help build long-term relationships with mentees over 1-2 years or more.

2. Concerns

Coaching is often conducted to improve the performance of the individual by offering guidance, support, and feedback. It is typically time-limited and action-oriented, with the aim of developing specific skills and knowledge that will help the coachee to achieve their goals.

Mentoring, on the other hand, often takes a more long-term approach that involves helping mentees build their confidence, knowledge, and experience to advance their careers in the future.

3. Structure

Coaching conversations are typically held on a regular basis, with sessions scheduled as frequently as weekly, biweekly, or monthly. Mentoring sessions, in contrast, tend to be more intimate and tailored to the specific needs of the mentee. These can take place in a one-on-one setting or within a group setting depending on the goals of the parties involved.

4. Expertise

In coaching, the focus is on unlocking the coachee’s potential and empowering them to develop their own skills and knowledge. Coaches come from various backgrounds and often specialize in certain areas – however, they don’t necessarily need to possess extensive expert knowledge in the field.

Mentors, however, need to have a deep understanding of the field to provide relevant advice and guidance to their mentees. They are often senior professionals with extensive experience who can offer insights on practical matters that would be hard to obtain through other means.

5. Content

In coaching, the conversation typically revolves around practical solutions that can be implemented right away – such as goal setting, problem-solving, and time management techniques. Mentoring focuses more on developing a deeper understanding of the subject matter by exploring theoretical aspects associated with it.

6. Role of the coachee/ mentee

Coachees are expected to be actively engaged during their sessions – they should come prepared with questions and ideas, while also being willing to take feedback and work on themselves. Mentees, in contrast, take on a more passive role – they rely heavily on the mentor’s guidance and experience to hone their skills and knowledge.

7. Questions

Coaches often use a lot of open-ended questions to help the coachee gain clarity and uncover effective solutions. Mentors, meanwhile, tend to ask more probing questions to elicit new perspectives and inspire creative thinking.

8. Outcomes

Coaching sessions strive to bring about tangible, visible results that are measurable in terms of improved performance. On the other hand, mentoring is more focused on helping a person develop holistically – in other words, the results may change as progress occurs over time.

When Do You Need Coaching and Mentoring?

Coaching and mentoring both promise numerous advantages to the coach/mentor, their coachee/mentee, and the organization. These benefits include – but are not limited to:

  • Support learning and personal development.
  • Improve employee engagement and talent retention.
  • Cultivate confidence and communication.
  • Increase performance in the workplace.
  • etc…

That said, depending on the specific situation, one approach should be considered over the others.

When do you need coaching?

Coaching is often utilized in the following scenarios:

  • When organizations need to equip staff/management with a new skill
  • When individuals are not meeting work goals or expectations
  • To help leaders respond to large-scale changes, manage teams from various backgrounds, and assimilate into the corporate culture.
  • To support an employee’s career advancement within the organization.
  • If quick improvement in behavior is required (e.g., an executive needs to be trained on how to better handle internal communication issues)
  • For those who wish for their leadership development journey to remain private, separate from shared training programs.

When do you need mentoring?

Mentoring is an option worth considering in the following cases:

  • To enable talented individuals to focus on career and life development.
  • To Inspire members to achieve success and enhance their leadership skills.
  • To bridge the knowledge gap between more experienced employees and those newer to the team.
  • To provide an opportunity for individuals from different cultures or backgrounds to form relationships.
  • As part of a succession planning initiative for key roles in the future.

coaching vs mentoring

Source: TRG International

Coaching vs Mentoring – Which to choose?

Having a mentor or coach can make a huge difference in the success of your professional career – as they will provide you with the proper support and guidance to help reach your goals efficiently and effectively. These relationships must be based on trust, respect, and confidentiality for them to be successful.

Coaching is best suited for individuals who need help understanding the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in the workplace. It focuses on short-term, goal-oriented objectives, and often includes tangible solutions that can be implemented right away – such as goal setting, problem-solving, and time management techniques.

Meanwhile, mentoring is generally for those who need help understanding the bigger picture, and provides an opportunity to look at situations from different perspectives. This approach is more long-term oriented and focuses on supporting personal growth, development, and learning – all with the aim of helping mentees realize their potential.

Ultimately, the decision of whether to choose coaching or mentoring should be based on the situation and individual needs. Both offer unique advantages that can help unlock potential and motivate success.

A Few Reminders When It Comes to Coaching and Mentoring

When you feel the need to seek coaching and mentoring, consider the following factors:

  • Before seeking a coach or mentor, determine what kind of support is needed – whether it is that you are seeking a promotion at work or hoping to improve your presentation abilities.
  • Establish ground rules by determining how often sessions will occur, how long the process will take, how much confidentiality is needed, and how the parties should determine communication methods/ response times.
  • Always have trust and respect in these relationships as they are built on these foundations for success. As a coachee/ mentee, be mindful that the coach/mentor’s viewpoint is based on their life experiences; as such, even though it may differ from yours, their feedback still offers invaluable insight if heard openly without judgment or haste in decisions made thereafter.
  • Open your mind and heart. Learning from someone with more experience and being able to openly share successes and failures is a valuable gift. The key to getting the most out of a coaching-mentoring relationship is to connect with an open mind and heart. Don’t be too judgmental or hasty in your decisions. Instead, always be open to new things you never expected.
  • Lastly, talk about the desired outcomes before starting any coach/mentor relationship – so that everyone knows what should be achieved in the end.

Coaching and Mentoring in the Workplace

Coaching and mentoring are powerful transformation tools when an organization seeks to:

  • Unlock the potential of your team by providing dedicated coaches/mentors to nurture their growth.
  • Strengthen existing talent development programs with personalized coaching and mentoring plans tailored to each individual’s needs.
  • Train new managers and help them succeed with guidance from experienced professionals.
  • Implement effective succession planning processes guided by expert coaches/mentors for maximum success of talented employees in the workplace.
  • Stimulate innovation with diverse teams supported by knowledgeable individuals who can pass on valuable feedback and insight.
  • Improve employee engagement and retention rates through meaningful opportunities including professional coaching and mentoring initiatives.

Read more: A Guide to the Types of Coaching in the Workplace

Final Thoughts

Coaching and mentoring are two different activities – and yet, both aim to support personal growth and success in work and life. As a coachee/mentee, it is recommended that you maintain an open mind to embrace the great “gifts” that a coach/mentor will bring to you. On the other side, as a coach/mentor, you must have the patience, dedication, and willingness to provide meaningful guidance to your coachee/mentee.

Other resources you might be interested in:

ITD Vietnam is part of ITD World – a top ranked provider of Talent & Leadership Development, Executive Coaching, Corporate Training & Consulting services.

ITD Vietnam




Let's see how our coaching, training & leadership development solutions may bring a difference to you and your organization.

Let's keep in touch

Stay up to date with the latest insights into Coaching, Leadership & HR Management - as well as with ITD's upcoming leadership training programs and workshops.

Latest posts