Business Mentoring Matters

When you DON'T need a mentor

Posted on Mon, Oct, 08, 2012

It’s often stated that everyone should have a mentor and that’s probably true. But not every situation requires a mentor. Sometimes having a coach is a better option. 

People often confuse coaching and mentoring. Though related, they are not the same. A mentor may coach, but a coach does not mentor. Understanding the definition of mentoring is crucial. Mentoring is "relational," while coaching is "functional." There are other significant differences.


Coaching characteristics:

  • Managers coach their staff as a required part of the job.
  • Coaching takes place within the confines of a formal manager-employee relationship.
  • The focus is to develop individuals within their current job.
  • The interest of the relationship is functional, arising out of the need for individuals to perform the tasks required to the best of their ability.
  • Managers tend to initiate and drive the relationship.
  • The relationship is finite, ending when an individual has learned what the coach is teaching.


Mentoring characteristics:

  • It occurs outside of a line manager-employee relationship, at the mutual consent of a mentor and mentoree.
  • It is career-focused or focused on professional development that may be outside a mentoree's area of work.
  • Relationships are personal--a mentor provides both professional and personal support.
  • Relationships may be initiated by mentors or created through matches initiated by the organization.
  • Relationships cross job boundaries.
  • Relationships last for a specific period of time (nine months to a year) in a formal program, at which point the pair may continue in an informal mentoring relationship.

If you need to develop a specific skill set or knowledge base and you need it critically--finding a coach is probably the best solution for you. 

Mentoring by definition involves a long term relationship. Coaching does not. So if you need a quick answer or some quick assistance finding a coach may be the right solution for you. 

For even more details on the differences between coaching and mentoring, download our FREE white paper, Coaching Vs. Mentoring: Detailed Insights From Management Mentors.

Tags: Mentoring FAQs