Business coaching and mentoring both exist for the same purpose: to help others grow, develop and reach their full potential. They may differ in their approach, but both enable the individuals involved to take responsibility for their own development. However, they are often grouped together as the same thing or portrayed as an ‘either or’ decision for companies. There are a number of differences between coaching and mentoring, so it’s important to see them as separate things but also understand how they can work together.

Today, we’ll be discussing how the two routes differ along with the various ways they can be used for business development – whether it be for your organisation or you personally. Are you in a rush and need to see the differences at a glance? We’ve quickly summarised these here for you.

What are the similarities between business coaching and mentoring?

Before we look at the differences, let’s first discuss the similarities. The main similarities fall within the core values, and therefore the two routes can complement each other when combined to create a highly effective development programme. These core values of business coaching and mentoring include:

  • Trust between both parties
  • A desire to develop
  • Knowledge sharing
  • Discussion of goals
  • Exposure to new ways of thinking
  • Skill development
  • Focus on career progression
  • The unlocking of someone’s potential

Of course, there is also a multitude of differences between the two practices – specifically the structure and outcomes but both are invaluable tools.

What is mentoring?

A simple, broad definition of a mentor is “an experienced and trusted advisor.

But, a mentor is someone that will guide, advise and support another individual, generally allowing them to develop their career and unlock their true professional ability. They’ll take the time to understand you and together you’ll transform the way you work; ultimately the relationship will equip you with the knowledge and experience required to overcome challenges in the future.

Key features of mentoring

Long term

Mentoring relationships tend to be long-term, typically lasting a year or two. But, they may last even longer should connection result in friendship; once a connection has been built, you may reach out again in the future. Generally, the relationship will be more personal and informal which is perhaps why they tend to also last longer.


Generally, mentoring will be voluntary; whether it takes place informally via a personal network, or formally through a company program, there is rarely the expectation of payment for a mentor’s time. Both parties, both the mentor and mentee, are dedicated to the development of the latter but the process is also highly rewarding for the mentor. In fact, mentors tend to find the jobs more meaningful and report higher levels of job satisfaction – they have even been found more likely to receive a promotion!

Advice and guidance

A mentor will listen, learn and advise. They will point their mentee in the correct direction to aid in their career development; the mentee is likely to admire the mentor, and therefore it’s likely the approach is softer and more of a relationship-focused form of guidance in contrast to structured coaching methods.

Mentee dictates the meeting

The mentor will work with the mentee to set goals, but it is the mentee’s responsibility to drive the sessions – dedicated to their own development. The mentor acts as a resource to enable them to reach their end goals rather than steering the boat.

The mentor draws on their personal experience and expertise

A mentee will likely admire their mentor and may hope to follow in their career footsteps. And, therefore the mentor will draw on their personal experiences; this may be in the form of sharing a story that taught them a valuable lesson, or perhaps a challenge they had to overcome on their career path.

Business Coaching And Mentoring

What is coaching?

Coaching can vaguely be defined as “to train or instruct – whether it be sport, education or professionally“.

A coach concentrates on up-skilling and training you in a specific area requiring improvement. You may work together to prioritise and focus on your current weaknesses, creating manageable goals to allow you to develop and enhance your abilities. Working with a coach can allow you to better understand your wants in regards to your career; based on this they will train you up where needed to accomplish your goals, whilst also equipping you with the skills to overcome future challenges.

Unlike mentoring, coaching is generally more structured and focuses on specific outcomes rather than overall personal development.

Key features of coaching

Short term

Coaching relationships are usually short-term, lasting perhaps only a few months as you work together with a specific outcome in mind. Once this objective has been met, the coaching would then end as you have achieved the desired goal.

Training and upskilling

Rather than offering advice and guidance, coaching concentrates on training and upskilling to develop your skillset. As a result, you may increase your self-awareness for the future – identifying areas of improvement and overcoming obstacles that would have previously prevented you from advancing. Coaching is often used to develop leadership skills – for example, an individual may be enlisted in a management program to equip them with the right tools to succeed.

Coach leads the sessions

In contrast to mentoring, the client that is being coached will not be expected to guide the direction of the meeting. By undergoing coaching, you have already taken responsibility for your development. And, whilst you will naturally have some input as the client, the coach will drive the sessions to ensure you remain on schedule to succeed.

Less personal

Whilst a coach may share a story if appropriate, the coach-client dynamic is more professional than the mentor-mentee relationship. Typically, coaching is more focused and formal hence why it may not be relevant for the coach to draw on their own specific personal experience.

At a glance: The differences

So, we’ve run through the differences between coaching and mentoring, but let’s see these at a glance for the final takeaway:

  • Timeframe: short-term vs. long-term
  • Focus: performance-driven vs. development-driven
  • Expertise: hired for expertise in a specific area vs. seniority and experience
  • Structure: generally more structured vs. informal
  • Agenda of meetings: co-created with the coach vs. set by the mentee
  • Questioning: coach will ask thought-provoking questions vs. mentee will be asking the majority of questions to tap into the expertise of the mentor
  • Outcome: specific and measurable vs. overall development (generally not as specific or measurable in terms of results)
  • Size: an individual, but could also work for a team vs. one-on-one

When we summarise the differences, it’s easy to see these two practices as separate methods. And, whilst both will grow and develop you professionally there is more than what meets the eye – and the two should not be mixed up as the same thing! Of course, there is some crossover in terms of the core values, but the style and overall outcomes, in particular, are very different.

Business coaching and mentoring: what do you need?

It’s clear to see the differences between a coach and mentor, however, it then leads you on to the dilemma of understanding which it is you need. Do you need just the one method, or could you combine the two? To simply break it down, you need to focus on your priorities, whether they are more skills-based or if you require an experienced advisor to achieve these.

Many organisations now choose to foster a mentor programme, as not only is this beneficial for the mentee but it is also rewarding for the mentor. The business will likely see a lower turnover rate of employees as they feel valued. But, it’s important to also have the resources in place to enable an employee’s skills to upgrade too – a guide can only do so much. Therefore, having regular coaching opportunities is also vital and you can see how the two different routes can actually work hand-in-hand.

Specifically for those starting a new venture, utilising a business coach and mentor can ensure you have access to the right training, along with essential expertise and knowledge that can see your business go on to thrive. However, it is crucial you are willing to worth with either a coach or mentor – they will not do the work for you, but you will need to implement and adapt to change which can be an obstacle for many business owners,

Coaching and mentoring are invaluable tools for any business, I can help you with both. With over 30 years as a business owner and a proven track record of providing clients with results, together we can create the right goals for you – whether they require specific training or aid your overall development. Get in contact with me now at or complete this contact form, and I’ll be happy to discuss how I can help you transform your organisation.