Many find it difficult to identify the difference between business mentoring and coaching. To some the two terms are interchangeable. Given the many definitions of mentoring and coaching this confusion is understandable. This post attempts to define the key differences between the two disciplines.

One of the better definitions of mentoring (from MentorSET) is it is a partnership between two people (mentor and mentee) normally working in a similar field or sharing similar experiences. It is a helpful relationship based on mutual respect and trust. A mentor should ask questions and challenge while providing guidance and encouragement.

Business coaching has many definitions but the role of a coach is to help a senior business executive (often the business owner) reach some specific goal. That goal is often related to taking a business from a starting point (A) to some desired future point (B)

A mentor is generally more experienced and qualified than the mentee. They have specific experience of the mentee’s occupation or role and are focussed on helping the mentee improve in that role. A mentor can often use their specific knowledge and contacts to open doors that otherwise may be closed to the mentee.

A coach may be less experienced and from a different industry to their client. They are primarily focussed on change management and/or developing the soft skills of their client. They may help their client improve their business skills, business relationships and decision making.

Mentoring tends to be short term and focussed on role specific issues. Coaching tends to take a broader view and can last for a considerable amount of time. 

In any mentoring process, the mentee generally sets the required agenda and the mentor simply provides the guidance and support required. Generally, a mentor provides challenges to the mentee and makes them accountable for their progress. 

Choosing between a coach or a mentor should be based on the desired outcome. It is important to decide between the two before progressing to choose a provider.

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