September 30, 2016

What is the Difference Between a Mentor and Coach?


mentor

More often than not, mentoring and coaching are used interchangeably in the business context. That’s why at many organizations, a mentor is expected to undertake coaching responsibilities as well. But despite what most people might think, there is a big difference between a mentor and a coach.

If you are wondering how these two roles differ and what these professionals bring to the table, you need to know the specific responsibilities of a mentor and a coach.

The Difference Between a Mentor and a Coach

What is a Business Mentor?

A mentor, in simple words, is someone who offers their knowledge, expertise and advice to those with less experience. By leveraging their experience and skills, mentors guide mentees in the right direction.

A mentor helps mentees consider opportunities for career growth, gain confidence and improve interpersonal skills. The support is based on the mentor’s own experiences and learnings, which makes them more reliable figures in the eyes of the mentees. 

What Does a Business Mentor Do?

As stated above, a business mentor provides support to the mentees with regard to their career growth and interpersonal skill development. Specifically, a mentor helps mentees explore their career options, set development goals, develop new contacts and identify resources. In this way, a mentor serves as a professional advisor and role model for the mentees.

A mentor’s role evolves as the needs of his/her mentees change over time. In most instances, mentoring relationships are informal, while at times such relationships could be more formal. In formal mentoring relationships, mentors follow a structured approach to set realistic expectations and gain mutual benefits.

Good mentors are always willing to share their skills and knowledge with the mentees. Since they have faced the same challenges as their mentees, they are more empathetic towards their needs.

To inspire and build trust and confidence, mentors possess a positive and can-do attitude. These qualities make it easier for the mentees to discuss their professional goals and concerns with them.

From a business perspective, mentors help employees gain more confidence in their work and develop skills to add value. Confident and satisfied employees steer organizations forward, which explains why a number of businesses are now shifting their focus on identifying the right mentoring programs.

Let’s now take a look at the role and responsibilities of a business coach.

What is a Business Coach?

A business coach focuses on specific skills and development goals by breaking them into concrete tasks to be completed within a specified period of time. By doing so, business coaches help and guide businesses clarify their growth vision.

For many businesses, identifying and prioritizing goals is a big challenge. Business coaches address this challenge by helping businesses prioritize their goals on the basis of importance. They follow a more formal, structured approach to resolve issues and manage specific aspects of the job.

What Does a Business Coach Do?

A good business coach focuses on identifying goals, prioritizing them and choosing the right path to achieve them. In doing so, business coaches help businesses become more accountable, goal-driven and competitive.

Business coaches cover various aspects of running a successful business. These may include sales targets, marketing strategies, communication skills, team building, leadership and more.

Coaches comprehensively assess businesses to recognize their core strength and growth challenges. Based on their assessment, they help formulate a plan or strategy, set targets and identify the steps required to achieve the desired results.

A great business coach challenges the status quo, questions business decisions and prompts organizations to take a closer look at their approach. This way, they bring in a fresh perspective to the business strategy and goals. But rather than simply questioning how things are run at a business, a coach guides the organization to adopt appropriate growth strategies.

For businesses, a coach helps succeed by guiding in the right direction. Often businesses lose sight of where they want to be and the steps they need to follow to achieve success, a business coach provides clarity. They give pointed advice and opinions to get businesses back on track. 

Conclusion: Differences Between the Two

By now, it should be clear that a business mentor differs from a business coach. To sum up the difference between a mentor and a coach, here are some specific points of differentiation:

  • Mentoring is a long-term process based on mutual trust and respect. Coaching, on the other hand, is for a short period of time.
  • Mentoring is more focused on creating an informal association between the mentor and mentee, whereas coaching follows a more structured and formal approach.
  • A business mentor has first-hand experience of the mentee’s line of work. A business coach, however, does not need to have a hands-on experience of the kind of work the coachee is engaged in.
  • The topmost priority of a business mentor is to help develop skills that are not just relevant for the mentees in their present job, but also for the future. For a business coach, the biggest priority is to improve performance that impacts the present job.

Both mentors and coaches benefit businesses in several ways. To benefit the most, businesses need to be clear on what their priorities are and what kind of support they are looking for. With the right support, small businesses can become more productive, profitable and competitive.

Business Mentor Photo via Shutterstock

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Shubhomita Bose


Shubhomita Bose Shubhomita Bose is a Staff Writer for Small Business Trends. She covers key studies and surveys about the small business market, along with general small business news. She draws on 8 years of experience in copywriting, marketing and communications, having worked extensively on creating content for small and medium sized enterprises.

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2 Reactions

  1. Jeff Charles

    Great post! I never really thought about the difference between mentors and business coaches. While there may be some overlap between the two, this post does a great job of distinguishing the two from each other.

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