The Difference Between Mentor and Coach

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mentor and coach

The Difference Between Mentor and Coach

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In a recent article I wrote about how to find the right mentor. It sparked some additional questions. One important question might be what are the differences between mentor and coach?

When you are considering the idea of having a good mentor or coach in the workplace it is important to think about the end result. What are you really trying to achieve?

Outcomes and Experiences

You might want to use a mentor when you are trying to create any of the following:

  • Job shadowing
  • Developing specific skills
  • Learning the ropes
  • Following in the footsteps
  • Replicating

A coach on the other hand would be somewhat different. Consider a coach to help create the following:

  • Breaking new ground
  • Discovering alternatives
  • Exploring choices or direction
  • Replacing old habits with new
  • Connecting with purpose

Mentor and Coach

Mentoring might assume that the mentee is ready, willing, and able to take on a new job role. It would be used when you are trying to transfer the knowledge, skills, and abilities of the mentor to the mentee. In some ways you might also connect these same concepts with an internship or apprentice.

Coaching is different but it also assumes that the person is ready and willing to be coached. In some cases it might be viewed as an opportunity to get on the right track. In other cases it is to inspire growth. Coaching typically is not show and tell. It is more about discovery and direction.

Skill Sets

A mentor needs to know and understand the job requirements. They need experience in that role, or to be a good professional role model. A mentor would likely use examples of actions and behaviors that lead to job success. I sometimes suggest that it is an advanced form of job shadowing.

A coach may or may not have specific experience in the job. The coach often needs to be able to help the coached person discover alternatives, different paths, or new directions. Show and tell is less important. The ability to illustrate and ask without being seen as condescending holds more value.

Do some mentors use coaching techniques? Do some coaches have the ability to mentor? The answer to both is yes.


Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and corporate trainer that specializes in helping businesses and individuals accelerate their leadership, their team, and their success. He is a five-time author and some of his work includes, Forgotten Respect, Navigating A Multigenerational Workforce and Pivot and Accelerate, The Next Move Is Yours! Reach him through his website at or by calling +1 646.546.5553.

Dennis Gilbert on Google+

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