Coaching and Mentoring. Are they the same?


There seems to be an ill-defined confusion between coaching and mentoring, both being one-to-one development interventions. A sports coach is quite different from an organizational coach as the former involves more ‘active’ mentoring input than ‘passive’ coaching output. While the organizational coach (like Coach Murphy) focuses purely on ‘passive’ coaching output, a mentor concentrates more on providing ‘active’ inputs. Confused?

Let’s look at Coaching and Mentoring separately.

Coaching is a relationship between two parties – one as the skilled facilitator, known as the coach and the other as the party who wants to grow professionally to achieve a specific goal, and let’s call this person the coachee. In this relationship, the coach plays the passive role by listening attentively and sagely asking appropriate questions to draw hidden and unconscious wisdom from the coachee. The general outcome of this relationship is for the coachee to be conscious of different perspectives to the issue at hand that provides clarity to possible solutions that the coachee could employ. There are negligible influential inputs from the coach such as advice or opinion that could tilt the view of the coachee. In this case, the coach plays the role of a mirror, reflecting the viewpoints of the coachee back to him.

Mentoring is a relationship between two or more parties, where the ‘senior’, more experienced  individual (someone who has ‘been-there-and-done-that), known as the mentor shall impart and share wisdom and experience with the junior individual, known as the mentee. Contrary to coaching, the mentor assumes an active role with substantial input for the mentee to absorb. This is believed to compress the learning curve of the mentee and use the saved time for better and more effective progress in their career. Usually, a mentor-mentee relationship is less formal compared with a coach-coachee relationship as the former do not normally have a fixed agenda to work on.

Both interventions; Coaching and Mentoring, play important roles in helping employees improve and grow professionally. Mentors gain credibility through years of experience and seniority within the organization, and Coaches become notable and highly respected through certified coach training and ethical personal conduct.


Differences between Coaching and Mentoring


The Coach plays a passive role by asking relevant questions to assist the coachee to discover unconscious wisdom.
The Mentor plays an active role by imparting wisdom and experience to the junior mentee.

The focus is work-related.
The focus is personal development.

The objective is mutually determined by the coachee & the coachee’s superior, and is focused on achieving specific goals.
The objective is determined by the mentee and the mentor’s role is to provide support and guidance.

Structured in nature as meetings are held on a fixed schedule.
More informal in nature as meetings are conducted as and when the mentee needs guidance, advice or support.


Short term. The relationship ends once the agreed objective has been achieved.
Relationship is on-going and can last a long time.

The Coach does not need to have direct experience in the coachee’s formal occupational role. For example, the Coach does not need to be an engineer to coach an Engineering Manager.
The Mentor is usually more experienced and qualified than the mentee. Perhaps someone more senior in the organisation who has been-there-and-done-that and who can pass on knowledge, experience and open doors to otherwise out-of-reach opportunities


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