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What is the Difference Between Mentorship and Coaching?

May 25, 2019

There are three differences between a mentor and a coach, and consequently between mentoring and coaching programs. 

1. Mentoring is non-evaluative, coaching is evaluative

The first difference is that mentoring is non-evaluative, while coaching is based on measuring performance change, whether through company performance reviews or coaching tests. For this reason, mentors shouldn't be a direct supervisor or manager of the mentee, while coaches are often externally hired specialists or managers that are focusing on specific skill improvement areas.

2. Mentoring is driven by the mentee, coaching is the opposite

When a mentee is part of a mentoring relationship, they are in the driver seat. They set the goals of the relationship and what they want to work on. They request time with the mentor, and they come to them with the problems they want to solve.

In coaching, the coach or supervisor is driving the agenda for the relationship. This stems from the fact that coaching is performance related. There’s a specific skill or goal that the coach is an expert on or can provide advice to improve performance of the coachee. Their guidance never stretches beyond helping the worker develop the skill.

3. Mentoring is highly personalized, coaching is repeatable

In mentoring, a mentee has specific needs and needs to discuss challenges that are not necessarily tied to company-wide, top-down performance initiatives. Mentoring also carries the benefit of building your network by meeting multiple mentors and making new connections. 

In coaching, a specific skill gap has been identified by the organization, and one or more coaches are selected to provide a generalized program to make improvements. Content is reused and generalized, and a coach wouldn’t typically be a networking opportunity for a coachee.

What is right for your organization?

Organizations that are looking at enhancing employee engagement, performance and culture need to be clear on whether the employees would benefit more from mentorship or coaching.

If an organization is looking to generally improve performance, culture, knowledge transfer and speed of career development, mentoring is best. In this case, every mentee has different needs and a personal mentorship relationship will accomplish all of these.

If a specific skill gap has been identified by the organization, for example, complaints about new managers or middle management being inexperienced or not up to par, a coaching program might be a better fit to provide a standardized, repeatable training.

Summary: When to use Mentoring

Mentoring is needed when:

  • You need Career development, knowledge transfer, culture, speed, or personal skill development that is unique to all employees
  • You need succession planning
  • You need to promote diversity in the workplace
  • You want mentees to drive the relationships
  • You don’t have a vetted curriculum ready to be covered

Summary: When to use Coaching

Coaching is needed when:

  • A company is looking to sharpen a specific skill of their employees broadly
  • A group of employees needs to become more competent in a certain area
  • A new procedure or system is being implemented

Download our Full Report on Mentoring

We interviewed and surveyed employees from 50+ leading North American Companies including McKinsey, Boston Consulting Group, IBM, Deloitte, Ernst & Young, Capital One, Norton Rose Fulbright, Mackenzie Investments. Get the results below.

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