What’s the difference between a coach and a mentor?

And which do you need? Mentorship is becoming increasingly popular in the business world, and rightfully so. It’s a great tool when you know your desired goal, and you can work with someone who has succeeded at reaching that goal, or has experiences that may help you reach it yourself. Business coaching is extremely effective when you are looking to make a change or face a problem at work and are "stuck" with no movement.

A coach is someone who asks the right questions to help you define goals and barriers as well as a plan to reach your goals and overcome your barriers. A coach doesn’t tell you how to solve a problem, but might provide insight on common reactions or issues that someone in your situation might encounter. A coach’s expertise is people – and a different perspective on your situation.

A mentor is someone with the experience or knowledge that you are seeking; someone who has been in your shoes, whose opinion you respect and whose advice you are seeking. A mentor’s expertise is experience and knowledge.

Both a coach and a mentor are powerful allies for individuals looking to enhance their career: a coach to build self-awareness, define goals and build a plan, and a mentor to help execute the plan in a logical and efficient manner.

I believe that once someone spends the time to define meaningful goals and an action plan, that person will accelerate their success if they have a mentor to help and nudge them along the way.

So, in summary here are the benefits of each:

Coach – kick-starter/catalyst

  • Create meaningful goals and a future state worth working towards
  • Provide information and insight and perspective on personality type and common pitfalls and barriers
  • Overcome barriers and limits

Mentor – long-term check-ins and on-going learning and accountability

  • Provide feedback on goals/action plans
  • Give insights of a time when they shared a similar experience
  • Outside accountability to push you to continue achieving short term goals and quick wins

Have you ever had a coach or a mentor? What were the benefits you experienced?

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