Mentoring vs coaching – what’s the difference?

Though it may seem like these two are very similar but they are not the same. In this article we want to share our groundworks on the topic of differences and similarities between these two notions.

Probably you have already got acquainted with our previous articles “what is mentoring” and “what is coaching” and realize the nature of these terms. If for some reason you have not got an opportunity to do it – consider having a quick look now, if you feel the relevance of complete understanding the difference.

Difference 1. Building interrelations

Coaching VS Mentoring

Coaching is aimed to achieve certain goals (for example, an increase in employee management; speech structuring; strategic thinking development).

In order to achieve these goals, a specialist (“coach”) required; the one who knows how and can manage such aims. In other words, it is the first priority to clearly define the task and successfully accomplish it (though it can be either personal or professional – the most important index here is the accomplishment).

Mentoring, on the other hand, puts human relations in the first place (for example, a “mentee” would want to share his life or career way obstacles which do not let him achieve success).

Without any doubt, one needs to apply certain skills and competencies to build a trust relations which defines a more deep techniques , such as: balance/harmony in life/career; self-confidence; self-perception; knowing that personal life affects professional one.

Difference 2. The duration of the process

Coaching versus Mentoring

While the process of coaching can be considered complete after a couple of sessions, taking into account the peculiarities of mentoring – it can last up to a year.

Coaching is aimed to a certain goal and is heading towards its’ accomplishment.

In order to get the most efficiency from mentoring session, a certain amount of time is needed. This time is used for mutual acquaintance with the participants’ characters and the creation of favorable conditions, where a “mentee” can feel free to share his personal and professional problems with his mentor.

Difference 3. Efficiency and development

Coaching and Mentoring

The purpose of coaching is the improvement of personal efficiency and development at work. These terms include either enhancement of the existing knowledge or achieving new ones. Once the trainee acquires relevant knowledge – the process can be considered complete. Mentoring is directed to continuous development (which can be applicable not only to the existing job, but for the future one as well). Thus, mentor’s recommendations and methods of learning bring continuous and universal development essence not attaching to any particular place of self-realization.

Difference 4. The structure of interactions built

This criterion is of the highest importance in the relevant question, that’s why we suggest you to take a closer look at its’ details. There are 2 notions as object and subject. Object is a category which describes something (occurrence or process) influenced by physical, managing and cognitive activity (taking into account that the subject himself can act as an object and the role of a subject is played by personality, social group or society in general). The subject, in his turn is the carrier of the activity, consciousness and cognition; it’s an individual that percepts the world (as an object) and affects it with his practical activity.

Coaching is aimed for the subject, and all the information given by the coach is directed to the audience and objective data, which has taken place and is rated concerning not the subject himself, but professional development of this or that competency in general.

Let’s have a look at the comparison table:

Coaching V Mentoring

The process of coaching does not require step-by-step approach and can be implemented right away with any possible subject-matter (except for corporate sessions, where it is necessary to analyze the fields of competencies of all the participants, their needs/requirements and ways/methods of achieving them). As for mentoring - it is necessary to have the process structured step-by-step. This way, the participants take time to know each other better and realize the strategic nature of the goals and ways to achieve it.

Difference 5. Supervision (Leadership)

Difference between Coaching and Mentoring

Current supervisors at work assume a dominant presence in the coaching process of the trainee due to the fact that they provide feedback on the results of their employee and his missing skills. This information is used for building the interactions. In mentoring – the supervisor does not take part in the process by means of influence, but can and will provide recommendations to his employee. This approach ensures the independence of mentoring interactions and has a positive impact on the final result.

In the last criterion we have applied a situational approach where coach acts as a corporate member of the company (there is a so called “internal corporate coach” in the structure of the firm).

It’s important to know that in this case the coach, the coachee and the boss are within the same interaction field and have mutual impact on each other.

To sum up [1]

You need coaching if:

  • Your company is looking for a professional who can help your employees develop relevant competencies with the help of specialized tools in a short period of time;
  • You have talented employees in your company but their efficiency does not meet your expectations;
  • Your company is implementing a new structure or program;
  • There is a subdivision in your company that requires an increase of certain competencies;
  • The executives of your company require to achieve new knowledge aimed to broaden their fields of responsibilities.

You need mentoring if:

  • It is necessary for your company to widen skill fields of both employees and executives;
  • Your company is willing to overcome the obstacles that do not let to meet the expected success;
  • There is a necessity of complex skill development of your employees by means of improvement of new skills and knowledge;
  • Your company accepts the idea to preserve inner professionalism of the employees and share it with potential co-workers;
  • The executives of your company would like to keep the balance of work processes taking into account both personal and professional factors.

To sum up [2]

Criterion Mentor Coach
Approach Aimed to the subject (person) Does not consider the factor of subjectivity, defined by the goal
Interaction structure No clear staging of the process Stating a clear staging
Relationship nature Mutually optimal Strictly formal (professional)
Influential source Consciousness Authority
Expectations (results) Development Performance
Activity arena Life experience Certain goal

Taking into account the abovementioned we can state that mentoring and coaching are not the same. While mentoring process is performed with time and includes character determination and mutual interest, coaching, on the other hand, requires complete fulfillment of a set task, does not affect personal character of the participants and is considered finished once the goal has been achieved.