Differences Between Coaching and Mentoring

May 1, 2014

Although similar in many regards, mentoring and coaching are different and separate activities. Here are a few aspects that distinguish the two.

Length of Relationship

Coaching and Mentoring usually occur for very different periods of time. Mentoring is typically characterized as being much more lengthy, while Coaching often consists of just a few sessions. The goal of mentoring is to create a long-term relationship in which the mentor and protégé freely share ideas, struggles, and aspirations. The length of mentoring is integral to its success: it generally takes a long time to develop a close relationship, so the duration of mentoring is very integral to its success.


Preparation Phase

Coaching can begin almost immediately after the coaching pair have agreed to the relationship. Mentoring however involves large amounts of preparation. To start, a selection process is usually warranted to find a compatible pair. Then the mentor and protégé need to meet to discuss expectations, goals, and possibly sign a mentoring contract. The detailed preparation phase of mentoring reflects how important it is that the mentoring pair develops a good relationship; adequate planning can help ensure the future success of the mentoring pair.



One of the most important distinctions between coaching and mentoring is a major difference in goals. Coaching largely focuses on improving a certain skill or accomplishing a specific task. Mentoring is different in that it tries to improve the individual as a whole, while working towards long-term growth. For example, if a student wanted to work on improving their public speaking skills, then a coach would likely be best. However, if an underprivileged high school student wanted guidance on how to get into college, a mentor might be a better choice.