Coaching vs Mentoring | The Differences and Benefits For Your Team

June 8, 2022

Call us biassed, but we love coaching at Circl HQ. Through our coaching programmes, we’ve had the pleasure of watching professionals and students transform through powerful coaching conversations. It’s why we want to share coaching with as many organisations as possible - and it’s why we want to clear up the misconception that coaching and mentoring are the same. 

We’re regularly asked if coaching and mentoring are the same thing. While the two have similar philosophies (both are about helping someone reach their full potential) they are carried out in different ways and by different people, each with their own set of benefits. If you’re considering a coaching or mentoring programme for your team, it’s important to know the distinctions between them to ensure you’re making the best decision for your business.

In this article, we’ll look at what coaching and mentoring really are, how they differ and why we recommend coaching for growing inclusive teams. 

What is mentoring?

A mentor is someone who uses their knowledge and experience to help another person grow professionally. The mentee is usually less experienced, so will be guided by the mentor on skills they need to develop within a particular topic or sector. For instance, someone wanting to start a business could find a mentor who has started a similar business to learn from their experiences and utilise their network. 

What is coaching?

A coach is usually a trained individual (i.e an executive coach or someone accredited by the AC) who guides another to achieve their goals through conversations that facilitate self-awareness and encourage action. The coach doesn’t need any experience in the coachee’s field of work, as they don’t share opinions or give advice. Instead, they coach the client to come up with solutions and answers on their own. For instance, the person who wants to start their own business wouldn’t ask a coach for advice on making new hires (this is where a mentor would help).  A coach would help them break through limiting beliefs and motivate them to take the steps they need to start the business.

Key differences between coaching and mentoring

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

  • Skills and experience: A mentor doesn’t need to be ‘qualified’ as a mentor. All they need is to be knowledgeable within their chosen field. Being a mentor is experience-dependent, while being a coach is skill-dependent. A coach needs coaching skills to facilitate meaningful interactions and outcomes, but they don’t need experience in the clients subject matter.
  • Conversational approach: With mentoring revolving around giving advice and guidance, conversations will tend to be more direct with the mentor providing answers during sessions. A coach will ask more questions that prompt the coachee to self-explore and find the answers for themselves.
  • Personal awareness: One of the core beliefs of coaching is that the coachee already has everything they need within them (vs mentoring where they are trying to gain knowledge that they currently lack). It is the coach's role to expand that self-awareness and help the coachee dig into the well of their own resources, knowledge and understanding to achieve their goals.
  • Short term vs long term: Coaches tend to work with their client for a short period of time to achieve a specific goal, whereas the mentor-mentee relationship can last for a long period throughout the mentee's career. 

Is coaching or mentoring better for my organisation?

Both coaching and mentoring programmes have their benefits, so the answer to this depends on your business objectives. If you’re hoping to upskill junior employees in specific areas, then a mentoring programme can be a great tool for training your team and fostering internal relationships at the same time. 

At Circl, we recommend coaching for organisations who want to create an inclusive workplace culture. By equipping your managers with coaching skills, you create an environment that’s led by empathetic and empowering leaders vs ‘command and control’ style leaders. This has a knock-on effect on the entire organisation; senior managers learn how to communicate more effectively, while junior employees feel empowered to achieve their goals and come up with their own solutions. 

How our programme works

The Circl Leadership Programme is a unique experience that develops your best employees into empowering and inclusive managers and leaders. Course participants are given real-world leadership experience by coaching and being coached by young adults from underrepresented backgrounds. It gives your team an opportunity to experience the world outside of work, expanding their horizons, making a social impact and giving them a sense of pride in themselves and in their company.

Want to learn more about the programme? Find out all of the details here.