The difference between Mentoring and Coaching

The terms “mentoring” and “coaching” are often used interchangeably, but while there is some overlap between the two, they represent very different practices in the areas of career, leadership and professional development.

The confusion is not helped by the abundance of professional providers and consultants offering “life coaching”, “career counselling”, “business coaching”, “business mentoring”, “career coaching”, “professional development”, “personal growth”, “life gurus” etc.

It is possible for a mentoring relationship to incorporate elements of coaching, and a coach can become a mentor to someone they have coached.  But they are separate disciplines.

Aspiration v. Ambition

One way to distinguish between mentoring and coaching might be as follows:

  • Mentoring poses the question: “Who/what do you aspire to be?”
  • Coaching asks: “How are you going to realise your ambition?”

Professional Relationship

In both cases, there is a very deliberate intent to establish a professional relationship between two people (a mentor and a mentee, or a coach and a coachee), with a view to helping the mentee/coachee achieve defined goals or objectives, usually in relation to professional or career development, but can include personal growth.

However, whether we are exploring a mentoring or coaching relationship, there has to be structure, agreement on goals and objectives, and a common understanding of the methodology. Above all, there has to be mutual respect between the participants.

Short-term and Long-term Objectives

Coaching tends to focus on very specific and short-term goals, and is usually based on a fixed-term engagement. While mentoring usually takes a longer-term perspective, and a more holistic view of the mentee’s development needs – a mentoring relationship may last a year or a lifetime.

Mentoring is optimal when the mentor has some deep and specific domain knowledge relevant to the mentee’s circumstances. Successful mentoring outcomes are bolstered through the sharing of that knowledge and experience. A coach need not have the same domain expertise as the coachee.  Coaching outcomes are best achieved when the coach is skilled in helping clients to define, plan and work on techniques and programs to achieve specific outcomes.

Setting Boundaries

It is important to remember that neither a mentor nor a coach is in a position of authority or supervision over the mentee/coachee, but both will hold their client accountable for delivering on the agreed outcomes, and challenge the client when necessary. To be truly effective, the mentoring/coaching relationship is self-contained and details of the sessions are confidential to the participants, unless both parties mutually agree to share some or all of the dialogue where and when appropriate.


A mentor is ideally placed to help a mentee navigate a challenging corporate environment, or pursue a personal development pathway to a particular career, profession or vocation. In particular, a mentor will address capability and help the mentee prepare the groundwork for an agreed course of action, such as transitioning to a leadership role.

A coach is best suited to help a coachee achieve a specific promotion or career progression, or tackle a major project or task where the coachee has the capability, but needs to develop the competence or skills to succeed.

Benefits of Mentoring

In the words of one of our clients, the benefits of having a mentor are:

  • helping to see the big picture
  • to focus on the objective
  • to be supportive, and
  • to be an advocate when the going gets tough.

Depending on the needs of the individual client, Bravo and its team of experienced consultants offer a range of coaching services and mentoring support in career, leadership and personal development. At the heart of everything we do is working with clients to enhance their self-awareness, connect with their purpose, and to achieve their full potential.

Posted by Dale Simpson

To enquire about how Bravo can support your own mentoring or coaching needs, please contact Jonathan Hazelton ( or 1300 79 22 65) or via our homepage

BonnieSue Nevin

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