What is the Difference between Coaching and Mentoring your Team?

Difference Between Coaching and Mentoring

Many people wrongly use the terms coaching and mentoring interchangeably. These two concepts are often misunderstood, and as a team leader it is necessary to understand how they differ from each other.

What is Coaching?

A coach is somebody who instructs or tutors a team or person to achieve a goal or improve a skill. In the office environment, for example, you may have sales coaches or customer service coaches. A coach usually specializes on improving one or two areas of development at a time.

What is Mentoring?

Although mentoring is also fundamentally teaching, it is vastly different from coaching and has a different purpose and goal. Mentoring is more voluntary in nature and is less formal than coaching. The mentor and understudy endeavor on a broad development goal such as becoming a leader for example. As a team manager or leader, it should be your goal to develop your team members in a way that furthers their career. Mentoring is one of the best methods to achieve this goal.

The Basic Differences between Coaching and Mentoring.

Characteristics of coaching:

  • Interaction is usually not voluntary.
  • The interaction usually is for a set amount of time.
  • The interaction is structured, and meetings are typically confined to scheduled meetings.
  • A coach does not necessarily have to be an expert on the coaching topic.
  • Generally, the interaction is short-termed and focuses usually in one or two areas of development.
  • The focus is on a specific job function or developmental issue.
  • The goal is to produce a more immediate change or result.
  • Coaching typically targets specific opportunities for improvement.

Characteristics of mentoring:

  • Interaction is usually voluntary.
  • Relationship is usually long-term over an extensive period of time.
  • Interaction is less structured with meetings more causal than structured.
  • A mentor is usually regarded as an expert in their field and is a resource to the understudy.
  • Career growth is the overall goal of mentoring.
  • The goal of mentoring is to develop areas that the understudy deems necessary for the development for future roles.
  • Mentoring targets the entire career path of an understudy.

Blending Coaching with Mentorship

The success of using an approach that combines coaching and mentoring characteristics depends on the circumstances. The work environment, advancement opportunities and the time available, will dictate whether a blend of coaching and mentoring is the right approach. As team leader, you have to determine which of the characteristics to combine. The approach you determine needs to be the best for your team’s situation.

Benefits of combining coaching and mentoring characteristics:

  • Increased flexibility.
  • Allows you to manage your team while acting autonomous.
  • Allows your team members to determine what they want to develop.
  • Your team members will feel more empowered in their development.
  • You can enlist the help of other managers and team leaders in the development of your team.
  • Greater satisfaction for both you and your team.


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