What are the similarities between coaching an athlete and mentoring a business executive?

Athletes and Business Executive have many similarities, they both strive for growth, they are ambitious, and they want to succeed. An athlete and a business executive whilst their attire can be most different, both epitomise human performance

However; if both professions are driven by the desire for human performance, why is one coached and the other mentored? Unfortunately; there is no regulatory body to provide clear clarification, therefore the answer lies in our interpretation of what is a coach and what is a mentor.

We are all familiar with the term ‘coaching, a coach can be a hero, someone we praise when a team succeeds, the special one! Yet they can equally be the person we blame when our team doesn’t qualify. 

Regardless of our affinity with the term, or our love or hate for Jose Mourinho the term coaching, we understand and respect.

However; the term mentoring we are less familiar with, perhaps stereotypically associated as a crutch for a junior member of staff, the capabilities, and the influence of mentors is poorly understood.

Put simply; mentoring is about sharing knowledge, expertise, and experience. A mentor is often a senior figure appointed to guide an individual, and support their development so that they can develop the skills, and confidence they need to grow.  

However; mentoring needn’t be a senior figure, reverse mentoring is equally insightful, emphasising the facilitation of learning from all levels of an organisation. 

So what makes mentoring and coaching different, yet so similar? 

The critical difference is the approach; coaching is goal orientated, a structured dialogue from an external person, appointed with the sole aim of equipping an individual with the skills they need to perform.

Controversially a mentor is predominantly an internal professional, who can recognise an individuals ability, and shares advice through their knowledge, experiences and expertise to support the individuals to find their solution.

What makes coaching and mentoring so similar is quite simply the relationship.

Relationships are everything, and at Pro-Noctis we believe better people, make better relationships, and better relationships create a better business.

There is no doubt that both coaching and mentoring is most effective when there is a good rapport between the two parties, and for both coaching and mentoring it is the relationship that allows for good communication, and it is the honest and open conversation that will overcome challenges and support a person’s development.

However coaching and mentoring themselves have a relationship, and like all good relationships, Coaching and Mentoring go hand in hand, and at Pro-Noctis we use both skills simultaneously. 

The team have decades of experience of not only coaching and mentoring but in working in the industry themselves in roles such as Senior Leadership, HR Director and Business Executives. And that experience allows them to continually use the right tool at the right time for their client.

Much like all good partnerships, there is an individual difference but there are shared aims, and this leads us nicely onto another similarity which is both coaching and mentoring are focused on personal development. 

Much like parenting, the techniques may differ, but both skills represent relationships between two willing parties, a relationship of varying length, but a relationship that is built on the fundamental principle of human performance, or wellbeing, and of success.

To conclude; both coaching and mentoring have the potential to create change, spur greatness, and propel an organisation or an individual to greater efficiency and performance. 

Which approach is right for you, depends on your organisation, your skills, and your goals, but remember much like an athletes relationship with a coach influences the athlete’s performance in a race, a business executives relationship with a mentor, influences their performance at work.


Whatever your organisational development needs, if you have got this far, and feel ILM coaching may be for you, get in touch with the team at Pro-Noctis today.