Coach vs. Mentor: What’s the Difference?

Here at Mentorloop, we often hear of a mentor being referred to as a coach and vice versa and it’s completely understandable why. They are both motivated to make an impact on somebody else’s life either professionally or personally. However, we believe there are a number of key differences between the two and the distinction is worth making. In this post, we share a list of what we believe are some of the key differentiators:

#1 — Money

As far we are concerned one of the key differences is that a coach is remunerated for their services, where a mentor’s reward is altruistic.

A mentor is generally motivated to give back and therefore donates their time and expertise to the mentee. They do not consider this to be their ‘profession’ but rather a philanthropic exercise.

On the other hand, a coach is financially motivated and the delivery of their services is often through a professional engagement.

#2 — Outcome

A coach is usually engaged to assist with a particular problem thereby being more task-oriented. Examples include improving public speaking skills, managing people more effectively or developing leadership attributes.

Mentoring is relationship-focused. The mentor is there to provide the mentee with general guidance and support, holding their hand through certain issues as opposed to telling them how to do it.

#3 — Time

Given a coach in most instances is paid, the engagement is generally time-bound. This may be a pre-determined deadline or based on reaching a particular outcome.

While some mentor programs run for a set period of time (i.e. 6 months), the relationship is certainly not defined by this time frame. In fact, once a program has finished, many relationships continue in an informal capacity for what could be a number of years.

#4 — Initiative

In a coaching scenario, learning is directed by the coach rather than the student.

Within a mentoring relationship, the expectation falls to the mentee to cultivate and drive the relationship.

There is a place for both coaching and mentoring in the professional and personal development space. However, we believe it is important to articulate the difference between the two methods to ensure expectations are aligned and relationships thrive.

Too often mentees believe their mentor is there to not only direct the relationship but also deliver tangible outcomes. One of the most frequent frustrations we hear from mentors is that their mentee expects them to hook them up with a job or that they are having to continually follow up with their mentee for action.

If you are entering into a mentoring relationship, avoid any confusion by documenting goals and expectations early so that both of you get the most out of the experience.

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Heidi is the Co-founder and COO of Mentorloop. She's passionate about all things mentoring, Kenny Rogers and Italian Greyhounds.

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Really helpful

Emily Ryan

I’m so glad it was useful for you, Ruth!