Coaching and Mentoring - the difference

Coaching and mentoring use the same skills and approach but coaching
is short term task-based and mentoring is a longer term relationship.

The CIPD differentiates between coachingmentoring and counselling. It is helpful to understand these differences as, although many of the processes are similar, they are generally delivered by individuals with different qualifications and different relationships with their client.


The difference can be summarised as follows:


"A coach has some great questions for your answers; a mentor has some great answers for your questions."

Differences between coaching and mentoring

Coaching vs. Mentoring



Ongoing relationship that can last for a long period of time


Relationship generally has a set duration

Can be more informal and meetings can take place as and when the mentee needs some advice, guidance or support


Generally more structured in nature and meetings are scheduled on a regular basis

More long-term and takes a broader view of the person

Short-term (sometimes time-bounded) and focused on specific development areas/issues


Mentor is usually more experienced and qualified than the ‘mentee’. Often a senior person in the organisation who can pass on knowledge, experience and open doors to otherwise out-of-reach opportunities


Coaching is generally not performed on the basis that the coach needs to have direct experience of their client’s formal occupational role, unless the coaching is specific and skills-focused

Focus is on career and personal development


Focus is generally on development/issues at work

Agenda is set by the mentee, with the mentor providing support and guidance to prepare them for future roles


The agenda is focused on achieving specific, immediate goals

Mentoring revolves more around developing the mentee professional's career

Coaching revolves more around specific development areas/issues

Coaching and mentoring processes

Individual and management development can take place in many forms, some delivered by managers and some by internal or external coaches, or mentors. Robert Dilts defines the different activities as follows: -


Guiding: the process of directing an individual or a group along the path leading from present state to a desired state


Coaching: helping another person to improve awareness, to set and achieve goals in order to improve a particular behavioural performance


Teaching: helping an individual or group develop cognitive skills and capabilities


Mentoring: helping to shape an individual’s beliefs and values in a positive way; often a longer term career relationship from someone who has ‘done it before’


Counselling: helping an individual to improve performance by resolving situations from the past.

Differences between counselling and coaching


Counselling is a highly skilled intervention focused on helping individuals address underlying psychological problems.


Differences between counselling and coaching

Counselling is a highly skilled intervention focused on helping individuals address underlying psychological problems.

Coaching vs. Counselling



Broader focus and greater depth


Narrower focus

Goal is to help people understand the root causes of long-standing performance problems/issues at work


The goal is to improve an individual’s performance at work

A short-term intervention, but can last for longer time periods due to the breadth of issues to be addressed


Tends for be a short-term intervention

Counselling can be used to address psycho-social as well as performance issues

Coaching does not seek to resolve any underlying psychological problems. It assumes a person does not require a psycho-social intervention


The agenda is generally agreed by the individuals and the counsellor


The agenda is generally agreed by the individuals

Other stakeholders are rarely involved

Other stakeholders are involved

What to do next

If you would  like to know more about how we can support your personal development as a director, provide executive coaching, or facilitate an away day or corporate retreat, contact us or call +44 (0) 7970 891 343.

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