Mentoring vs Coaching: Understanding the Differences

When comparing mentoring vs coaching, don’t assume that they are the same. Many people use the terms interchangeably, but there are distinctions between the roles. Read more below to understand how they differ! 

Mentoring Focuses on the Relationship

Mentors serve as advisors who help individuals by way of supportive interactions, subject or industry expertise, and constructive feedback. Mentors may meet with their mentees on a set schedule, but that is not always the case. Some mentors will meet with mentees only as needed, and the meetings may lack a tight agenda.

Mentoring typically does not focus on reaching a concrete goal. Instead, mentoring focuses on building strong and trusting relationships that promote holistic growth. Mentors often speak from their experiences to help a mentee envision themself in a more senior role or in a setting, such as college or a workplace, that may have seemed unattainable. 

Mentors will need to be savvy about listening and picking up cues from mentees. That way, they can respond with topical suggestions and help their mentee seize opportunities that they might be reluctant to pursue. At OhanaHC, mentors learn techniques to ensure that they are responding to their mentees with patience, insightfulness, and empathy.  

Coaching Focuses on Performance

One of the significant differences between coaching and mentoring is that coaching tends to prioritize performance. A coach will use a structured approach to help the individual being coached make measurable improvements. Unlike a mentoring relationship, a coaching relationship usually is focused on the person being coached. In other words, the coach will not bring in personal anecdotes to help spur improvements.

Coaches may work with an individual for a more discrete period of time, as well. For instance, someone might seek a coach to help prepare for an interview or segue into a new employment industry. Coaches may have credentialing that equips them to help in a niche area, as well. Executive, life, and career coaches are common titles.

Understand What Separates Mentoring vs Coaching

While mentoring and coaching do overlap in some respects, there are distinctions that impact which role is appropriate for a given person. In a mentoring situation, the mentee takes more ownership of driving the relationship’s agenda. A mentor may have relevant skills or experiences that a mentee wants to learn more about, but it is their responsibility to direct the course of the relationship. By contrast, in a coaching situation, the coach will take command and set the schedule in conjunction with the individual being coached. 

Additionally, it is important to note that mentoring and coaching can mingle. Someone may start out as a coach guiding an individual toward a particular goal. But if the connection is a positive experience, that coach also can serve as a mentor, sharing personal experiences that forge a longer-lasting relationship. 

OhanaHC supports mentors eager to make a difference in the lives of young people. Please fill out the contact form on our website or email us at to discover ways to get involved!

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