What’s the difference between Coaching and Mentoring?

I’m often asked this question, and in my experience, there’s a lot of confusion and mis-information about this. So, let me help clarify this with my perspective:


A Mentor is skilled in the role/work/skill that you want to develop and can support you from their expertise and experience. This often includes giving advice, sharing their own perspective and experience, connecting you with their network, resources etc.

The approach is often more directive in nature, with the Mentor doing more talking and guiding. However, depending on the Mentor, it might also include having them ask powerful questions to help generate your own insights, learning and decision making.

The nature of the Mentor/Mentee relationship is often a senior (in their expertise) mentoring a junior. A mentor doesn’t require training in being a mentor, although this can be very helpful.

A mentoring engagement might include some coaching and training depending on the Mentors skillset. A mentoring arrangement is often longer term.

When might you engage a mentor?

✓ When you want deeper on-the-job support to develop a particular skillset or way of thinking/working

✓ When you’ve taken on a new role or next step in your career that requires new approaches, skills or problem solving

✓ When you’re preparing yourself to take the next step in your career and want to expand your network, skillset etc

✓ When you see someone’s approach (the Mentor) that you admire and you’d like to emulate that

✓ And more…


Coaching is an equal partnership, where the Coach supports the Coachee to achieve particular goals or outcomes that they’re wanting support with. The Coachee sets the goals with the help of the Coach and the Coach then (metaphorically) walks alongside the Coachee to help achieve those goals.

The Coach is ideally skilled in motivation and habit development, personal change processes, generating awareness and insight, giving effective feedback, asking powerful questions, multi-level listening, overcoming internal resistance, reframing unhelpful thinking, belief change and understanding elements of psychology and neuroscience.

The approach is often more non-directive in nature, with the Coachee doing more talking and the Coach asking questions, giving feedback, reflecting and giving space for insight. A professional Coach should be trained in coaching skills and engage in ongoing professional development.

Sometimes coaching engagements will include mentoring & training depending on the Coach’s skill set & the Coachee’s goals. A coaching engagement is usually for a defined period to support the achievement of goals.

When might you engage a Coach?

✓ When you have particular development goals that you want greater support with such as being a better leader, feeling more confident in particular areas such as giving presentations, feeling more comfortable having difficult conversations or dealing with conflict, improving communication/relationships/influencing skills, having greater clarity on next career step, feeling more motivated, overcoming procrastination, being able to say no to others, being more organised…and more

✓ When you’re feeling confused and want greater clarity on your next career step

✓ When you want help with nailing job applications and interviews

✓ When you’ve taken on a new role or next step in your career that requires new approaches, skills or problem solving that you’re struggling to implement

✓ When you want to change an unhelpful habit and/or limiting belief

✓ When you’ve completed a training and need support to implement the new skills on the job

✓ And more


Both approaches are powerful in supporting a person’s growth & development in a very tailored way.

The skills and approaches of good Mentors and Coaches often overlap, and a person could have both a Coach for specific goals and a Mentor for ongoing on-the job support.

If you’d like to know more about how coaching could support you, book in a free, no obligation chat with Michelle.

Want to know more? Book a chat with me today!