Are coaching and mentoring the same?

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Are coaching and mentoring the same?

Posted by: Phil Kelly
Category: Blog, ILM Courses
Are coachijng & mentoing the same?

If you are considering an ILM Training Course you may be wondering whether coaching and mentoring are the same? Then this guide is for you.

Both coaching and mentoring exist for a similar purpose:

  • assisting people in growing and developing to attain their full potential.

Both approaches allow one to take responsibility for their personal and career development.
Although coaching and mentoring are often grouped while discussing people’s development, these two methods have some differences. Therefore, it is essential to see both as separate entities.
This guide will discuss why the difference between coaching and mentoring matters, the critical element of the two methods, and when each technique is the best development approach.

Coaching vs mentoring – why the difference matters

Although both coaching and mentoring are usable as development tools, the two methods are pretty different in their structure and outcomes. Therefore, it is crucial first to understand the differences and choose the right approach for you, depending on your objective.

The following are some of the differences you need to understand between coaching and mentoring.

  • Timeframe

The time frame between mentoring and coaching differs. Usually, a coaching relationship has a short duration. In most cases, it takes six months or one year.
While in mentoring, the relationship is ongoing and can last for a long duration. Mentoring can take one or two years and even longer.

  • Focus

The aim of these two methods also differs. Coaching is more performance-driven. It uses a design to achieve specific, immediate goals. On the other hand, mentoring is more development driven. It focuses on long-term development goals.

  • The agenda

These two approaches also differ in how their agendas are co-created. In coaching, the agenda of the relationship is co-created by the coach and coachee. That way, they can meet the specific needs of the coachee.
While in mentoring, the agenda of the relationship is set by the mentee, while the mentor provides support and guidance.

  • Questioning

In coaching, the coach mostly asks the coachee thought-provoking questions. Such questions help the coachee to make crucial decisions and take action. On the other hand, in mentoring, the mentee most often asks more questions to the mentor, tapping into their expertise.

  • Outcome

The coaching agreement outcomes are specific and measurable. The coachee should show positive change or improvement in the particular performance area upon completion of the coaching term. While in mentoring, there is less interest in specific changed behaviour or measurable behaviour. This approach has more interest in the overall development of the mentee.

Key Elements of Mentoring

There are several critical elements of an effective mentoring program. Here are some of the essential elements that result in positive outcomes in mentoring.

  • Communication

One of the main elements of mentoring is open communication and accessibility. Communication is the foundation of a strong mentoring relationship. The mentor and the mentee should communicate in the ways they both agree and prefer.
Also, the mentee should be an effective listener, ask relevant questions, share personal information, remember what their mentors tell them and get back to the mentor within the timeframe. Also, the mentor should give prompt answers to the mentee.
In general, the mentor’s communication should be practical and frequent for both of you.

  • Mutual respect and trust

Respect and trust between the involved parties are paramount for a successful mentoring program. When the mentor and the mentee trust each other, they can openly talk and open up to each other without hiding anything. with time. You develop a mutually respectful relationship that becomes fruitful for both of you.

  • Mutually established goals

Setting clear, precise goals and expectations is vital for the success of a mentoring program. The mentor and the mentee should set high, attainable goals and facilitate realistic and exciting challenges to the mentor. That will keep the mentee on toes which eventually leads to positive income.

  • A time-bound and inclusive program

A successful mentoring program is time-bound and inclusive. The mentor and mentee need to set an end date of the program. With a timeline, mentees become proactive while the mentors become present.

  • Purpose

The purpose of the mentoring relationship should be well known to both parties. In mentoring, the primary goal is to work on the mutual objectives to facilitate mentees growth and success.
The mentor and the mentee should know the purpose of the mentoring program. You should discuss and agree upon what you will work on and how you will recognise once you meet your objective.

Elements of coaching

A good coach should have a transparent approach that entails using open questions to help the coachee grasp the issue at hand. When the coach completes a coaching session, they must assess the coachee’s problem-solving ability. The following are three critical elements of coaching.

  • Prepare your questions ready.

A good coach use question as part of their standard coaching tool kit. That is why, before you start a coaching session, ensure your query is ready. Nonetheless, the coach should ensure the question does not have a standard reply. It is advisable to phrase an open question that will dig deeper rather than preconditional assumptions.
For instance, you can phrase the starting like this “what are you thinking about the issue?” followed by “is there anything else you have left behind?” the two question leads to a strong start on your discussion. This type of question helps the coach explore and understand the issue deeper.

  • Question with respect

For the coach to develop a connection between him and the other person, they need to understand their clients’ challenges in-depth.
As a coach, you should help the coachee develop more in-depth answers to your questions. This helps them avoid yes or no answers. Always enquire further to understand the coachee issues.

  • Be an active listener.

A good coach understands their coachee through tone expression, how a person speaks, use of body language, and the discussion context. During a conversation, a good coach should use or develop listening skills that will enable them to coach to go deeper with coachee issues.
As a coach, when you use an open question, you should listen to what the coachee is saying attentively. That is why you should always listen for understanding and capture any hidden meaning during a conversation. Without active listening, the coach may hear some words from the coachee and miss crucial information.

  • Seek commitment

As a coach, you should encourage your coachee to state their specific goals and define their timelines clearly. A good coach seeks to create an opportunity and motivate employees by helping them reach their objectives. Also, they help reflect on their practices rather than just judging and making a negative opinion about them.
When is coaching the best development method?

Coaching is needed when:

  • When a company want to improve employee performance

When you coach an employee, you improve their human performance and enhance their skills. Besides, you help them understand their role in detail. Any employee who understands their role performs better—also coaching help new employees cope and succeed. Lastly, it keeps employees thinking about work and the company goal in mind.

  • Help employees to achieve more goals.

Any organisation aspiring to set achievable and specific business or personal goals need to create a strong coaching culture. Your plan should centre around the employee’s contextual training. That is why you should invest in your employee’s performance by training them through coaching. You close the skills gaps quickly and reach the company goals faster.

  • A new method or system is being implemented.

Coaching help employee to keep up with the new trends and learn the new procedure and the vital changes that are happening to the world of technology and various business processes. When employees fail to update their skills, they fall behind in their production as they cannot leverage new technology and trends affecting their day-to-day running.

When is mentoring the best development method?

Mentoring is the best development method in an organisation when:

  • The organisation want to support personal and career development

One of the best development tools an organisation can use to help their employees realise personal and development is by use of mentoring programs,
Mentorship programs allow employees to develop their full potential at the workplace. Instead of stagnating in their roles, it advances their career prospects and relationship with a mentor. Also, employees to get someone trustworthy whom they can seek advice and guidance.

  • Knowledge transfer

Mentoring is the best development method in an organisation. It aims at knowledge transfer among employees. Usually, a more experienced employee has thorough knowledge developed over time in an organisation, a position, the policies and comprehensive information about the organisation. The mentor can impart such wisdom to the mentee through mentorship programs.

  • Learn the workplace culture

When a company wants to build an inclusive workplace, it should encourage all employees to learn and adapt to the workplace culture attainable through mentoring programs. Employees who engage in a mentorship program become more aware of workplace policies, routines, and expectations.

  • You want mentees to drive the relationship.

Mentoring is the right program if you want an individual to drive the relationship. Unlike in coaching, in mentoring, the mentee drives the mentorship relationship by determining the goals they want to achieve and the role model they wish to work with. That way, the mentor can focus on the mentees goal and guide them to success.

  • You don’t have a vetted curriculum ready to be covered

When an organisation do not have a vetted curriculum prepared to be protected, the best development method they can use is mentoring. In mentoring, a curriculum does not matter but relies on problem-based learning. The mentor ought to understand the mentees needs, problems and focus on their goals.

Does it matter as long as coaching & mentoring are happening inside organisations?

Yes, it matters. Coaching and mentoring helps an organisation to yield significant benefits. Besides, any organisation that practice continuous coaching and mentoring in the workplace helps its workers to develop in their capacity. That is why such programs should incorporate regular practice.


Nowadays, Coaching/mentoring has become a part of running a successful organisation. The two are beneficial for the career growth of the workers. That is why coaching/mentoring is usable for personal and professional development. In addition, it builds positive and concrete changes in individuals and boosts the transfer of knowledge from a coach to a coachee.

To discover more check out our range of courses including the virtual Introduction to Coaching & Mentoring here

Author: Phil Kelly
An award-winning business owner and TED presenter, Phil lives and breaths performance. Having designed and delivered successful training packages across various industries worldwide, he now spends most of his time within business development and consulting. Phil Kelly
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