Coaching and mentoring – the difference

Coaching and Mentoring

Coaching and mentoring use the same skills and approach but coaching is short term task-based and mentoring is a longer term relationship.

The CIPD differentiates between coaching, mentoring and counselling. It is helpful to understand these differences as, although many of the processes are similar, they are generally delivered by individuals with different qualifications and different relationships with their client.

The difference can be summarised as follows:

"A coach has some great questions for your answers; a mentor has some great answers for your questions."

Coaching vs. Mentoring

Mentoring Coaching
Ongoing relationship that can last for a long period of time Relationship generally has a set duration
Can be more informal and meetings can take place as and when the mentee needs some advice, guidance or support Generally more structured in nature and meetings are scheduled on a regular basis
More long-term and takes a broader view of the person Short-term (sometimes time-bounded) and focused on specific development areas/issues
Mentor is usually more experienced and qualified than the ‘mentee’. Often a senior person in the organisation who can pass on knowledge, experience and open doors to otherwise out-of-reach opportunities Coaching is generally not performed on the basis that the coach needs to have direct experience of their client’s formal occupational role, unless the coaching is specific and skills-focused
Focus is on career and personal development Focus is generally on development/issues at work
Agenda is set by the mentee, with the mentor providing support and guidance to prepare them for future roles The agenda is focused on achieving specific, immediate goals
Mentoring revolves more around developing the mentee professional's career Coaching revolves more around specific development areas/issues

Coaching and mentoring processes

Individual and management development can take place in many forms, some delivered by managers and some by internal or external coaches, or mentors. Robert Dilts defines the different activities as follows: -

Guiding: the process of directing an individual or a group along the path leading from present state to a desired state

Coaching: helping another person to improve awareness, to set and achieve goals in order to improve a particular behavioural performance

Teaching: helping an individual or group develop cognitive skills and capabilities

Mentoring: helping to shape an individual’s beliefs and values in a positive way; often a longer term career relationship from someone who has ‘done it before’

Counselling: helping an individual to improve performance by resolving situations from the past.

Differences between counselling and coaching

Counselling, is a highly skilled intervention focused on helping individuals address underlying psychological problems.

Coaching vs. Counselling

Counselling Coaching
Broader focus and greater depth Narrower focus
Goal is to help people understand the root causes of long-standing performance problems/issues at work The goal is to improve an individual’s performance at work
A short-term intervention, but can last for longer time periods due to the breadth of issues to be addressed Tends for be a short-term intervention
Counselling can be used to address psycho-social as well as performance issues Coaching does not seek to resolve any underlying psychological problems. It assumes a person does not require a psycho-social intervention
The agenda is generally agreed by the individuals and the counsellor The agenda is typically set by the individual, but in agreement/ consultation with the organisation
Other stakeholders are rarely involved Other stakeholders are involved

Find out more about executive coaching, mentoring, corporate coaching and business coaching or return to the coaching home page.

What to do next

positive results

Thank you for your interest in Brefi Group. To contact a representative about how Brefi Group can help with coaching or coach training, use our contact page.

Alternatively, if you would prefer to talk to one of our consultants, then call +44 (0) 121 288 3417.


Brefi Group designs, develops and licenses coach training programmes for managers who wish to improve their leadership style and for individuals who wish to qualify as professional coaches.

Sign up for our FREE weekly e-newsletter CorporateCoach.