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Coaching Demystified – The difference between coaching and mentoring

August 25, 2013

Continuing on from the previous blogpost on coaching, where I addressed the question “Why should organizations pay attention to coaching as a tool for L&D?“, this second post seeks to clarify the difference between Coaching and Mentoring. And it continues to curate and log the discussion around coaching which was held on #indiahrchat in July, which is a forum promoted by @tanvi_gautam

Thanks to CartoonStock.comIn very simple terms, Mentoring is a process where a more experienced person (not necessarily older) is tasked with teaching a protege. It involves transfer of knowledge and skills and can be directive and educational in nature. For example, a veteran might take a rising star under his wing, in order to teach him all she knows about navigating the organizational pitfalls in order to develop his career. This would be a mentoring relationship.

Coaching, is less directive and relies on enabling the protege to find his own way. The role of the coach is to provoke, inspire, challenge, question in order to defog the landscape and help the protege achieve greater clarity, whereupon s/he is independently able to find a solution. Coaching is also helpful in areas that are harder to define and are not always skills related. For example, Sachin Tendulkar might benefit from a coaching conversation that helps him understand why he tends to lose his way whenever he is close to a major landmark.

I found the following interesting:

Mentors: Tell him all you know.

Coaches: Ask him what stops him? What is unclear? What would he like to do?

Coaches will more often follow a more Socratic process than mentors.

@qEdisonPeres4 Puts it very well when he says “Coaching is performance driven , Mentoring is development driven”

Mentors guide, while coaches create spaces to think, says @SujitSumitran

@sonaliramaiah rightly says that Coaching is for behaviours and mentoring is for skills and knowledge

@Meetasengupta opens up a new dimension when she says “Coaching is about support, less about influence. A mentor uses the power of influence too”

I personally believe that sometimes the lines between coaching and mentoring can blur, but more so for mentors than coaches. This is primarily because the essence of coaching is to ensure that the protege doesn’t develop a dependency on the coach. Coaches do not operate from a hierarchical assumption that they know more than the protege. In many instances a coach may not be as skilled as the protege, which is very different from mentorship, where the mentor is expected to know more!

In a later blogpost we will discuss the specific skills that a coach requires, which will be more illustrative of the challenges that coaches face.

The questions that will come up in subsequent blogposts are:

3. When should coaching not be used ?

4. What does it take to be a good coach ?

5. What is an ideal coaching candidate like ?

6. What are the challenges of establishing a successful coaching culture in a firm ?

You can follow me on twitter @joyandlife and find me on LinkedIn

Please leave your comments about how you see the differences between coaching and mentoring.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. August 27, 2013 8:24 pm

    I don’t agree with @qEdisonPeres4 when he says “Coaching is performance driven , Mentoring is development driven.” My own belief is that coaching in about enabling clients to develop themselves and learn how to find their own solutions!


  1. Coaching Demystified – What does it take to be a good coach? | Life, Leadership and Change
  2. Coaching demystified – When should Coaching NOT be used? | Life, Leadership and Change
  3. Coaching Demystified – The what, when, why and why not | Life, Leadership and Change

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