“What is the difference between a coach and a mentor?”

“Do I need mentoring or coaching?”

These are just two of the most frequent questions I encounter as a coach. While some people use these terms interchangeably because of their similarities in skills, their structures, and outcomes as professional development tools are different.

I want to share with you some insights about coaching and mentoring, and the best way to start is by stating their definitions.

Coaching: The International Coaching Federation (ICF) defines coaching as “Partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.” A coach is an external sounding board who helps in making choices, formulating strategies, and supporting through the “gap between current reality and the desired future vision.

Mentoring: A simple, broad definition of a mentor is “an experienced and trusted advisor.” Business Dictionary defines mentoring as an “Employee training system under which a senior or more experienced individual (the mentor) is assigned to act as an advisor, counselor, or guide to a junior or trainee. The mentor is responsible for providing support to, and feedback on, the individual in his or her charge.” One note of clarification: While many organizations offer in-house mentoring programs, often as part of a leadership training program, it is common for mentees to work with mentors outside their organization.

When To Use Coaching and Mentoring


Now that you have a basic understanding of the difference between coaching and mentoring, how will you know which is best…working with a coach or working with a mentor?

When deciding whether to use a coach or a mentor, consider the goal you wish to achieve. The coach and the mentor will help professionals in different ways to accomplish their goals.

In fact, some professionals use multiple coaches or multiple mentors throughout their careers, depending on their desired goals. In both coaching and mentoring, trust, respect, and confidentiality are at the forefront of the relationship.


You need a coach if you want to:


  •         Develop raw talent with a specific new skill
  •         Enhance the experienced professional with a new or refreshed skill
  •         Help individuals who are not meeting expectations or goals
  •         Assist leaders in coping with large-scale change through a merger or acquisition, like managing new “blended” work teams and adapting to the merging of company cultures
  •         Prepare a professional for advancement in the organization
  •         Improve behavior in a short period, like coaching an executive to address the media on a specific topic
  •         Work one-on-one with leaders who prefer working with a coach rather than attending “public” training programs


You need a mentor if you want to:


  •         Motivate talented professionals to focus on their career/life development
  •         Inspire individuals to see what is possible in their career/life
  •         Enhance the professional’s leadership development
  •         Transfer knowledge from senior to junior professionals
  •         Broaden intercultural or cross-cultural ties within the organization
  •         Use the mentoring process as an entrée to succession planning


Whether you’re looking to connect with a mentor or a coach, you are making the right choice and will surely benefit from them. We make it our job to help you in your professional and personal life, enhance your way of thinking, and open your mind to new possibilities.


Do you want to give it a try? How about a little chit-chat? Let’s connect!