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Understanding Coaching and Mentoring

Not sure what to expect from a mentor relationship? Learn how mentors help along the path to success.

What is mentoring?

The terms “mentoring” and “coaching” are often used interchangeably, but in fact are quite different. Consider two dimensions of helping:1

Coaching is “a relatively directive means of helping someone develop competence.” It is “primarily focused on performance within the current job and emphasizes the development of skills.”

Mentoring is “off-line help by one person to another in making significant transitions in knowledge, work or thinking.” Mentoring involves drawing on all four “helping styles” as appropriate to the current situation, which will change over time.

Coaching Mentoring
  • Concerned with task
  • Concerned with implications beyond the task
  • Focuses on skills and performances
  • Focuses on capability and potential
  • Primarily a line manager role
  • Works best off-line
  • Agenda set by or with the coach
  • Agenda set by the learner
  • Emphasizes feedback to the learner
  • Emphasizes feedback and reflection by the learner
  • Typically addresses a short-term need
  • Typically a longer-term relationship, often “for life”
  • Feedback and discussion primarily explicit
  • Feedback and discussion primarily about implicit, intuitive issues and behaviours

In summary: Mentoring includes aspects of coaching, since mentors will often have specific skills that they can impart to protégés. However, that is not the point of mentoring, which is to develop protégés beyond their current position.

1Adapted from “Everyone needs a mentor”, David Clutterbuck, 2001

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