It is easy to become confused about the differences between coaching and mentoring.

Often times the two terms are used interchangeably when in fact there are some very distinct differences. The primary distinction being “who established the course of action”.  In mentoring, the course of action is usually provided by the mentor, whereas in a true coaching engagement, it is the coachee who creates the action plan. Most managers, in the interests of being expedient, choose to mentor, as opposed to coaching.  Why? It is quicker and more “efficient.”  As a result the lasting quality of the lesson is marginalized. The reason is simple. If a person sets a personal goal, and successfully accomplishes it after painstakingly working toward its achievement, personal and professional growth is always a powerful byproduct. The result is that similar situations will seem familiar, the coachee’s confidence will rise and they can approach that new problem with greater confidence. In a mentoring engagement, however, the mentee does not go through the pain of evaluating options, choosing a course of action or experiencing the personal satisfaction of conquering the challenge. Thus, they are deprived of a key growth component.


The coach’s responsibility is to offer perspective through powerful questions then motivate and hold the coachee accountable to attaining their objectives.   Both Coaching and mentoring have their place in the work place. Coaching is the highest order of learning in any professional environment.  As managers we trip over scores of coaching opportunities daily.  Ask yourself; do you address those opportunities as a coach, mentor or manager?