The Difference Between Coaching and Mentoring

The Difference Between Coaching and Mentoring

The aim of this short article is to provide clarity for those in a workplace developmental relationship such as mentoring.

The aim of this short article is to provide clarity for those in a workplace developmental relationship such as mentoring.

That is, to understand the difference between coaching and mentoring. However, this is not straightforward since there is often much confusion of definitions between practitioners.

Let’s begin with a definition:

A mentor is a more experienced individual willing to share knowledge with someone less experienced in a relationship of mutual trust. – David Clutterbuck

Mentoring is a partnership between two people and emphasizes a mutuality of learning. However, mentoring is sometimes confused with coaching, teaching, or counselling.

The aim of this article is to describe mentoring from a British (Clutterbuck) point of view and compare this with other forms of development: coaching, teaching, and counselling.

What’s the Difference Between Coaching and Mentoring?

The difference between coaching and mentoring isn’t clear-cut. A mentor may draw on several approaches: teaching, coaching, and counselling.

Indeed, it can be argued that these areas often occupy the same developmental space. Nonetheless, one significant difference between mentoring and coaching and other forms of development is the relationship forged between two people.

Let’s have a closer look.


The focus of coaching is usually task and performance. The role of a skills or performance coach is to give feedback on observed performance. Consequently, coaching usually happens at the workplace.

The coach is likely to set or suggest goals for the learner; measuring performance periodically as the learner develops new skills. This needs a good working relationship between learner and coach.


The focus of teaching is to impart knowledge and information through instruction and explanation. And the goal for the student is usually to pass a test. Once again, learning has a one-way flow. However, unlike coaching, the closeness of the relationship between teacher and student is often low.


The counsellor uses listening and questioning to build self-awareness and self-confidence in the client. The goal is to help the person deal with something difficult. Once again, learning is one-way and the closeness of the relationship low.

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