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What Is The Difference Between Coaching & Mentoring?

Maddie Brindley-Slater
4 November 2021
Coaching & Mentoring

When it comes to reaching your personal, career or business goals, you need a game plan.

Sometimes, you need 3rd party support from someone that’s not involved in the day-to-day activities of your personal or professional life; someone who can see issues from an outside perspective in order to resolve them.

Both coaching and mentoring can help you achieve objectives, but there are some differences between the two. Depending on your preferences and desired outcome, one may be more suitable than the other.

So what is the difference between coaching and mentoring? Here, we look at some of the key differences.

How do coaching & mentoring differ?

Although coaching & mentoring both have the common theme of two individuals working together to create a positive outcome; the means of doing so differ slightly.


Mentoring aims to improve performance through knowledge-based guidance. There may not be direct goals, but more general and ongoing support. Kent State University define mentoring as a holistic approach towards supporting a client.

A mentee tends to drive the session, bouncing ideas off the mentor. There is a heavy emphasis on the mentor’s own experience, which can be used to help direct clients.


Coaching aims to improve performance through structured, results focused methods. Forbes characterise a coach as providing concrete steps so that an individual can reach their specific goals.

Both parties agree to specific goals and a coach drives the session based on the goals allocated. A coach does not necessarily draw upon their own experience and each session is focused on the client’s progress towards meeting set goals.

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Key differences

Scope & focus

The scope and focus of a session can differ slightly between a coach & a mentor.

A coaching partnership will usually have a specific focus or outcome. A mentoring relationship can have more scope and be less execution focused, often drawing upon the mentors own extensive experience.

Mentors tend to act as a sounding board as clients work through problems (as and when they encounter them). A coach may go into the relationship with a view to overcoming their clients’ set goals.

A coach's responsibility is to work with their clients, determining their needs – whether it’s a problem that needs solving or a new direction. After determining this, a coach & client work together until they reach that mutual goal. Guider state that a coach often drives their sessions, to help meet goals.

Mentoring involves a softer approach, with mentors acting as a counsel for the ideas, thoughts and concerns of their clients.

Context & Outcomes

The context and outcomes of each session can differ slightly.

A mentoring relationship is based on personal development. In the words of CIPD - a willingness to learn from a more experienced individual’s direct knowledge. A coaching relationship is based on performance improvement.

Coached individuals inherently have more accountability towards goals because updates on progress are a key element. Mentees may not be held to the same level of accountability, as their sessions may not focus on targets.

Structure & Formality

The structure between coaching & mentoring sessions may differ slightly. Typically, coaching involves a methodical structure, with regular check-ins on progress towards meeting goals.

Mentoring follows a more fluid approach. Pushfar state that the structure of a mentoring session is often driven by the client, depending on the changing topics they bring to each session.

The formality of sessions often sets the two apart. Coaching is solution focused, abiding by rigid steps in order to reach an end goal, therefore tending to take on a slightly more formal approach.

Mentoring relies on the experience, power and influence of a mentor to guide someone, with less of a focus on formal steps. The mentor is there as a sounding board to provide advice and ideas based on their extensive experience.

Coaching or mentoring?

Ultimately, both coaching and mentoring are productive tools for empowering people to get what they want out of their professional & personal life. Whether you opt for a mentor or a coach for your personal, career or business objectives is down to you. There is no right or wrong option, only slightly differing approaches from both angles.

When considering whether to opt for a coach & mentor, some key questions you may wish to consider include:

What is your main focus?
What would you like to get out of your sessions?
Do you have set goals in mind, or are you looking for more general ongoing support?

As each individual coach and mentor differs in their methods, there can also be crossovers between the two. Many members of the Wiseup network cover both coaching and mentoring in their approach.

Wiseup offer the chance to speak to your chosen coach or mentor before embarking on a development journey. Our free Virtual Coffee service allows you to gauge how you get along, as well as their particular style before committing to regular sessions, therefore managing expectations at the front end of all involved.

Are you ready to level up? Explore our range of coaches & mentors here to see how Wiseup can help you.

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