Written by Reginald Chan on October 14, 2020

The Difference Between Business Coaching and Mentoring

No matter what job you have or industry you work in, you cannot always assume that you know it all, even if you are greatly experienced and invested many years of your life into this line of your work. Getting someone else’s guidance is very important if you want to progress in your career, as you can learn so much from other people’s experiences and advice to you.

If you have a standard job, you may benefit from having the guidance of a manager or a designated mentor that can show you the ropes and guide you through the job so that you developed the necessary skills and become better at it. When you are an entrepreneur, developing your own business, you may not have someone else to rely on. 

Therefore, getting a business mentor or a coach can be the preferred step for you, so that you get the same benefits. Many people assume that a mentor and a coach are the same. However, in this article, we will advise you of the difference between business coaching and mentoring – this way, you will be able to decide which one best suits your needs.

What is a Business Mentor?

Essentially, a business mentor is an individual who provides their expertise and guidance to others with less experience in a certain industry. By doing this, a mentor guides individuals learning from them in the right direction. A mentor can support individuals and think about career opportunities for development, to increase confidence, and facilitate interpersonal skills, and this is the main focus of the mentoring relationship.

What is a Business Coach?

A business coach concentrates on particular abilities and development goals by breaking them into real tasks to be accomplished within a detailed timeframe. As stated by the folks at Gro.Team, business coaches support and guide businesses to understand their vision for growth and development. In many cases, companies find that identifying and prioritizing an aim is often difficult. A business coach can help businesses overcome these barriers by helping them focus on what they need, what their aims are, and how important each one is. This way, they generate a structured strategy to solve problems and accomplish particular features of the job.


The duration of the relationship between you and a coach or mentor will differ. A Mentor will spend more time with you, and the mentoring relationship is often one of the long-term and can last over a year. On the other hand, a coaching relationship is more focused, and therefore shorter, with most usually lasting up to 6 months. However, this will depend on your specific goals and how long it should take you to achieve them. If you are not sure whether you need a coach or a mentor, thinking about how long you would want your relationship to last is a good starting point.  


As we mentioned previously, there will be differences in the focus of a mentor and a coach. A coaching relationship will concentrate strongly on your performance and make sure that you achieve the tasks you have set your mind to, to improve overall performance on the job. Whereas, a mentor focuses on your personal development, not only necessary when it comes to your job, but also in other areas of your life you can improve, which will impact your careers, such as improving interpersonal skills and confidence.


Considering that you will have less time with a coach than you will with a mentor, there is an increased need for the coaching relationship to be more structured. This means that appointments are scheduled and happen on a regular basis. Mentoring relationships tend to be more informal, and they will happen as you require, rather than on a scheduled basis as the coaching one. Of course, if you have a mentor and need things to be structured, this is also something you can discuss with them.


When you get a coach, your main goal will be to focus on specific aims to accomplish. Coaching does not take a holistic approach, unlike mentoring. This means that a coach will usually have the expertise in the specific area you need support with, such as presentational skills or interpersonal communication. On the other hand, a mentor will have vast expertise in the industry, and it will be someone the mentee can learn from overall and even use the mentor for inspiration.


If you know you are not sure what you want to achieve, a coach is a great idea, as they will devise a plan together with you. They can use their expertise to guide you and formulate timeframes to achieve your goals, as we discussed above. With a mentoring relationship, usually, the mentee already knows what they want, and they will already have a plan. The job of the mentor is to support this plan, as wished by the mentee.


Questions are always part of both relationships, coaching, and mentoring. However, they differ a great deal. Coaches are put in place to test you and make you think outside of your comfort zone. This means that they are trained to constantly ask you questions that will make you consider your thoughts and behaviors and improve your critical thinking and take action independently. The mentoring relationship is not as thought-provoking as they are more based on the mentee asking the mentor questions. The mentee is meant to observe the mentor and ask questions as they see pertinent, to investigate further, and obtain some of the mentor’s knowledge and expertise.


The very final outcome of the relationship with a mentor is specific and measurable. The structured and focused approach enables you to see actual improvement in your desired area. This is not necessarily the case with a mentoring relationship, which can change over time and is not so focused on measuring results. The main focus of the mentoring relationship is to improve the mentee’s overall growth and development, and this may not be something others will be able to see.

Having either a mentor or a coach is very important. Both of these will enhance your skills and help your development. They each offer different benefits - depending on what you want, you may choose a mentor or a coach. Just make sure that you learn the differences between the two so that you can make the best choice for your needs.

Article written by Reginald Chan
A meticulous entrepreneur by nature, Reginald is a sought-after success coach, digital marketing consultant and TEDx speaker from Asia. Currently, he teaches others how to make money online for free.

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