Coaching & Mentoring: Similarities & Differences

coaching and mentoring
March 14, 2023
Table of Contents

Millions of businesses are launched every year. With crowded marketplaces, increasing competition, and ever-evolving modes of business (online businesses being the most recent evolution), most businesses don’t make it past year two. 

This means that business coaches and mentors are in higher demand now more than ever before. Yet, even with increasing awareness about coaching and what it entails (and doesn’t), when it comes to mentoring and coaching, these two terms are often used interchangeably for one another.  

If you’re on a journey to becoming either a coach or a mentor, understanding the difference between the two is going to help you set out on the right path from the very beginning. While there are certain similarities between the two, these two interventions and professions are, in fact, quite distinct from each other. 

Let’s start with the basic definitions of each.  

What Is Coaching? 

Coaching is essentially a form of development in which an experienced person, the coach, supports a learner or client in achieving a specific personal or professional goal. This is done by enabling the client to reflect and come up with answers and solutions by tapping into their own inner wisdom and understanding. The coach doesn’t provide them with answers but instead creates the ambience and situation required for their clients to come to their own answers. 

The ICF, a prevalent board for coaches, defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. The process of coaching often unlocks previously untapped sources of imagination, productivity and leadership.” 

There are 7 things you must know before you officially become a coach! 

We’ve covered it all in detail. Check it out

What Is Mentoring? 

Mentoring is that which occurs when someone shares their own acquired set of skills, knowledge, and experience with another individual – to help them grow and progress. 

The term ‘mentor’ has historical origins in Greek mythology, which goes something like this: “Ulysses entrusted his son Telemachus to the care and direction of his old and trusted friend, Mentor, before setting out on his epic voyage. Telemachus was guided and advised by Mentor, and this is where we now use the word mentor, and verb ‘mentoring’.” 

A mentor is someone who can help another individual by guiding, advising, and supporting them. They offer advice based on their knowledge of the problem and personal experience in a similar field, with the aim of helping the mentee achieve their objectives. 

What are the Differences Between the Two? 

  1. The process 
    Mentoring: Mentoring is directive. This means that the mentor does most of the talking and directs the mentee/client along what they need to do – it involves a certain degree of providing advice to the client, along the lines of “here’s what I did, and this is what you can learn from it”.  
    Coaching: In coaching, the client is encouraged to do most of the talking and the coach simply nudges them to find their own answers. 
  1. The outcome 
    Coaching: Coaching is more evaluative and objective than mentoring. In coaching, there needs to be a measurable goal, which the client is actively working towards. Mentoring: There is no pre-determined outcome to work towards with mentoring – there is no fixed outcome in this particular intervention, and even if there is, there is no hard & fast rule for it to be very ‘objective’, ‘specific’ or ‘measurable’. 
  1. The duration 
    Mentoring: Mentoring is usually a long-term process that lasts for more than a year and tends to be open-ended in most cases.  
    Coaching: Coaching, on the other hand, is usually done in a container of 3 or 6 or 9 months.  
  1. The nature 
    Coaching: Coaching falls a bit more on the formal spectrum – there are goals and action plans that the coach and client are working towards.  
    Mentoring: The relationship in mentoring is a little more informal. 
  1. The structure 
    Coaching: While it can’t be generalized, coaching tends to be standardized and repeatable – many experienced coaches adopt a ‘journey’, which helps them conduct their coaching program in a structured manner to clients with similar requirements.  
    Mentoring: Mentoring, on the other hand, is more informal and takes shape as it goes. There is usually no formal structure to it a mentoring session or engagement. 

What Are the Similarities Between the Two? 

  1. The outcome 
    Both mentoring and coaching aim to create a positive outcome in the life of their client(s). It is aimed at taking the client to their point B. 
  1. The scope 
    Both encourage aspects of self-improvement and growth. 
  1. The rapport 
    Both focus on building 1:1 relationships between the client & the coach/mentor that are based on being non-judgmental and supportive in nature. They both provide a safe space for the client to share and be vulnerable without the fear of repercussion of judgment. 
  1. The inherent skillset 
    Both require the coach/mentor to be deeply observant and to listen to their clients with neutrality and empathy. 
  1. The need for qualifications 
    No official training or license is required for an individual to call themselves a coach or a mentor. It is highly recommended to obtain one, however, there are far more official certification and accreditation programs available for coaching than there are for mentoring. 

In Conclusion 

While there are differences and similarities between coaching and mentoring, both are powerful processes that can transform people and take them closer to their goals. Depending on the individual or the team, one may be better suited than the other at a certain time, or both can also work together to provide a deeper and more holistic experience for the client! 

Sources: Teach Mint, Leverage Edu, Cima Global 


1. What are the similarities between coaching and mentoring?  

Coaching & mentoring both have the same intent: the betterment of the client’s life and getting them closer to their goals. Apart from this, both coaching & mentoring provide a safe space for the client to share openly and discuss their challenges and dreams. Both professions require the facilitator to observe the client and listen to them deeply. 

2. What is the difference between mentoring & coaching?   

Mentoring is more directive in nature, wherein the mentor does the majority of the talking by providing instructions and advice. Coaching comprises the client doing most of the talking and the coach acting as a facilitator and encouraging self-reflection and assessment. Coaching requires certain objectivity and measurability, whereas mentoring can be more free-flowing and subjective in nature. 

About Simply.Coach

Simply.Coach is an enterprise-grade coaching software designed to be used by individual coaches and coaching businesses. Trusted by ICF and EMCC-credentialed coaches worldwide, Simply.Coach is on a mission to elevate the experience and process of coaching with technology-led tools and solutions.  

About the author
Content Marketing Manager @ Simply.Coach

Ipsita Nayak is a full-time writer-editor-content strategist and a part-time NLP coach and yoga teacher. She believes conventions are overrated, has a disproportionate need for solo time over social time, and loves a good mix of sci-fi and trashy TV in her free time!

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