The Difference Between Coaching and Mentoring: A Comprehensive Guide

A coach is someone who guides a client on their goals and helps them achieve their full potential. In the 1980s, coaching began to enter the business world, and Thomas Leonard, a financial planner, saw that his clients were following his financial and life advice. He taught them how to organize their lives and, in doing so, brought off-court training to people's lives. Thomas made the idea of life coaching a respected profession.

Mentoring is much more complicated than coaching. It is a relationship focused on development in which the mentor shares specific knowledge, experiences and skills to help the learner obtain ideas, achieve development goals and overcome barriers to their professional and personal development. The mentor is often someone in a high-level position, but this is not always the case. Structures such as reverse mentoring allow unique mentoring relationships to occur.

Before creating an employee development program or starting to establish an official training relationship, it is important to understand what mentoring and coaching are, how they are different and in what aspects each type of function is valuable. In her book, Mentoring Programs That Work, Jenn Labin, talent development specialist and director of diversity at MentorCliq, discusses some additional differences between these two concepts. In fact, you can train without mentoring and you can mentor without training, but for the best results, a business employee development program may need to have both. Mentoring and coaching are student-centered training methods.

Rather than being polar opposites, coaching and mentoring can be considered subsets that are included in a broader employee development framework. There are a few ways to distinguish between the two. In mentoring relationships, mentors rely heavily on their professional or life experiences and make those past experiences a central part of the engagement. Mentors often incorporate transferable experiences and skills, but they may not have developed a career around teaching others those experiences or skills.

Don't be surprised if you're trying to launch a mentoring program and are having trouble attracting mentors. Many people who would be excellent mentors for a mentoring program don't realize the positive influence they can have, because they are rarely recognized for the transferable talent they bring. In most cases, coaching focuses on improving a specific skill or helping the coach achieve certain goals. Mentoring emphasizes more holistic learner development. In other words, coaching is more task-oriented and mentoring is more relationship oriented.

A coach would be invaluable in helping you change the way you think and give you more confidence to ask for a raise or make a powerful presentation. Organizations can benefit from both business coaching and business mentoring. In fact, coaching and mentoring are easily combined in the same learning programs, assuming that those learning programs are built from the start around measurable organizational objectives. Organizations such as The Clorox Company, Nielsen and Bacardi have chosen to take advantage of mentoring software such as MentorCliq for their mentoring and training programs. By implementing modern mentoring software, organizations like these have found that they can more easily achieve the measurable objectives of their programs, sometimes dramatically. Connect with MentorCliq to see how mentoring programs powered by mentoring software and our framework can impact and improve the mentoring and training needs of your employees.

Sam Cook is the content strategist at MentorCliq who has seen first-hand the transformative impact that comes from mentoring for both mentors and learners. Organizations need to understand that there is a difference between coaching and mentoring in order to create an effective employee development program that will help employees reach their full potential. Coaching focuses on improving specific skills while mentoring emphasizes holistic learner development by relying heavily on mentors' professional or life experiences. Mentors often don't realize how much influence they can have on others because they are rarely recognized for their transferable talent. Organizations should consider taking advantage of modern mentoring software such as MentorCliq which can help them achieve measurable objectives of their programs.

Combining both coaching and mentoring into one learning program can be beneficial for organizations as it allows employees to develop both specific skills as well as gain knowledge from mentors' experiences. It is important for organizations to understand the difference between coaching and mentoring in order to create an effective employee development program that will help employees reach their full potential.