Business Mentor Rebecca Newenham talking with a franchise owner.

What is the difference between a mentor and a coach?

Mentoring and coaching are development approaches that use one to one conversations with clients to enhance their knowledge, skill and overall work performance.  They can both help individuals grow and improve in their personal and professional lives but there are some key differences which are important to understand when you are deciding which approach suits you best.

Mentoring generally describes a relationship where the mentor shares their greater knowledge to support the development of their client (mentee).  The mentoring sessions use skills of questioning, listening, clarifying and reframing that are also used in coaching.  A mentor is chosen for their skills and previous relevant industry experience.

Coaching works to produce optimal performance and improvement at work.  It generally focuses on specific skills and goals.  It provides the individual (coachee) with the opportunity to better assess their strengths as well as their developmental areas.  A coach is more of a specialist in a particular area or industry and will focus on providing specific guidance or support.

Let’s look at the differences between a mentor and coach in more detail…

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A mentor will take time to understand you and look at the
possible challenges you are facing.  You will generally work with a mentor over a longer period of time than a coach to
help you work on your goals and challenges by pulling on your mentor’s own personal experience. The benefits of mentoring include increasing self-confidence, developing your leadership and communication skills as well as gaining a new way of looking at opportunities. 
Coaching partnerships are generally more short term than mentoring due to the fact that they are objective-driven and more structured.  A coach will identify a specific need and
break this down into areas of improvement.


Mentoring is more development driven, looking at your future desired outcomes and taking a more holistic approach.  Supporting you to review current behaviours for example and review what you might do differently.  Coaching is more performance driven and will be measured using specific metrics which will be monitored regularly.


A mentoring session is likely to be less frequent than a coaching session as they are led by the need of the mentee and can be more informal.  A traditional coaching session is more structured, with regular meetings and accountability.


A mentor is generally chosen for their expertise, track record or approach.  They are someone you value or who is a good role model.  The mentee will learn and be inspired by the mentor’s experience.  Coaches are generally selected for their expertise in a given area eg leadership, sales and are seen as more of a specialist.


The mentee sets the mentoring agenda from the start.  They are clear on what support they are looking for and the mentor will respond appropriately to this agenda.  Whilst the coaching agenda is co-created by the coach and the coachee, in order to meet the specific needs of the coachee.

Use of questions

The mentee is more likely to ask more questions of the mentor as they are keen to tap into the mentor’s experience and knowledge.  Whilst in a coaching session, the coach is more likely to lead with the use of probing questions to help the coachee to make important decisions and to take action.

Final outcome

The outcome from a mentoring relationship can easily shift over time with most of the emphasis being on the overall development of the mentee.  However, the outcome from a coaching programme is more specific and measurable.

I hope this has helped explain the sometimes subtle differences between mentoring and coaching – both have huge advantages and they all have the client’s best interest at heart.

If you are interested in exploring how a business mentor could support you then please don’t hesitate to get in touch.