The Difference Between Coaching and Mentoring

The Difference Between Coaching and Mentoring

Coaching and Mentoring: Understanding the Differences

Organisational development solutions provider Joanna Lamb-White outlines the differences between coaching and mentoring; a distinction necessary to achieve an efficient, cost-effective business practice.


Recent CIPD surveys have reported that the use of coaching and mentoring as development tools are on the increase within organisations. According to respondents, 72% use formal mentoring schemes and 88% expect line managers to deliver coaching as part of their day to day work.

All too often we hear the terms coaching and mentoring used interchangeably, as though these processes are one and the same. However, whilst this is good news in itself and organisations are finally realising that the development of individuals can act positively and contribute to the ‘bottom line’, it is important that the differences between these powerful processes are understood in order to avoid wasting time and money.

History and definitions
In order to understand some of the subtle differences between coaching and mentoring it is necessary to undertake a short history lesson and explore where these tools originated.

A coach has been defined as a person who teaches and directs another person via encouragement and advice. The use of the term coaching (as in the art of coaching people) has its origins in English traditional university “cramming” in the mid 19th Century. The name apparently recalls the multi-tasking skills associated with controlling the team of a horse-drawn stagecoach.

By late 1800, in the US, most college sports team employed coaches as well as managers and by the 20th Century, non-sporting coaches were emerging, those who were not specifically experts in the skills of their clients but who offered what Wikipedia terms ‘generalised motivational and inspirational advice.’

Many would argue that coaching has...

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