Coaching vs. Mentoring: What is the difference?

Written by
Gabriela Dittrichova
Published on
June 24, 2021

Whether you are being mentored, coached, or are sharing your experience with others, you might be unsure about the real meaning as well as the difference between mentoring and coaching. Well, we get it, it is confusing! And that is why we are bringing a short and sweet explanation of who is a mentor, a coach, what they have in common, and how they differ.

Both a coach as well as a mentor are helping people progress in their careers, work on their passion projects, and identify core values. Both can be helpful also in personal development. But there are some aspects that differentiate one from the other and how they can help tackle various challenges. Let’s start with the definition of coaching and mentoring.

Coaching applies a questioning approach.

The role of the coach is to constantly ask questions, repeat and summarise what has been said and encourage the coachee to think of new ways and justifications for their decision. Coaching helps people grow and achieve their potential, a coach supports them in who they want to be, as a person and a professional. A coach, unlike a mentor, does not need to be an expert in the field their client is interested in. His or her role is to point their coachee in a direction and let him/her find the answers themselves by asking thought-provoking questions.

Mentoring focuses on a sharing approach.

The role of a mentor is not to tell the mentee what to do but rather to facilitate self-learning and help the mentee come up with a solution and see what works for themselves. Mentoring facilitates the exchange of ideas, so when the mentor shares their experiences, they might inspire the mentee to come up with their own solution to a problem whilst remaining cautious of potential mistakes or challenges their mentor has faced.

Neither a coach nor a mentor should advise their charge on what to do. Their role is to support and encourage, not to advise on the next steps. It can be risky and dangerous to tell the mentee/coachee what to do, especially if they lack the background knowledge and do not know the person they advise well. Giving the decision-making power to the hands of the mentee/coachee can not only prevent the mentor/coach from taking the blame for unsuccessful decisions but also give more power and control to the charge.

And what about the mentee or the coachee?

A mentee is someone who owns the agenda. It is his/her responsibility to set out clear goals, plan meetings’ structure, and prepare questions. It is NOT the mentor’s nor coach’s duty to provide any of these. The person who is being guided takes the lead and is fully responsible for preparation and conduction.

Mentoring as well as coaching is a journey. They are two different ways of achieving one’s goals and objectives.

When it comes to communication, the mentee and mentor are equal. By sharing their skills and knowledge, they can mutually inspire and learn from each other. Therefore, it is necessary to treat the other party with trust and respect. You can learn more about productive communication here and how to be a good mentor here.

Mentoring as well as coaching is a journey. They are two different ways of achieving one’s goals and objectives. The aim of the process is to be set out by the mentee/coachee. It is not advised to get a coach/mentor if you don’t have a clear goal in mind. So first, start by asking yourself: What do you want to change/achieve/complete/improve/...? And if you can, write down the SMART goals to help you maintain clarity and focus in your mentoring.

The SMART goals are:






If you find it demanding and difficult to decide what are the goals you want to achieve, the Femme Palette mentoring program not only helps you clarify your aims but also finds an ideal mentor for you. And that saves you time, energy and avoids feeling intimidated when addressing strangers via LinkedIn, email, etc.

The tailor-made programs are suitable for working professionals, freelancers, and entrepreneurs alike. Therefore, if you are unhappy in your current role, want to make a career change or simply catch a new breath, join the Femme Palette mentoring program, and fall in love with your work (and life!) again.

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