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Mentor vs. Coach: 5 Key Differences to Tell Which One’s Best for You

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Summary: When it comes to mentor vs. coach, there are five key differences in their methodology. Discover which one suits you best when working with clients.

Imagine you just had coffee with one of your colleagues. It was one of the most wonderful conversations you ever had—you were able to help them overcome a problem they had been struggling with for the past two years.

Your colleague thanks you for the help and says, “You should be doing this for a living!

You leave feeling like a million bucks and go straight home to Google everything there is about coaching. But the more you go down the rabbit hole, the more confusing it gets. You think, “Is it coaching that I’m really after? Or is it mentoring?

Mentor vs. coach—what sets it apart? Understanding the differences can help you decide which path you want to pursue.

What Are Coaching and Mentoring?

Coaching is a purpose-driven journey that empowers individuals to tap into their potential and reach specific goals. As a coach, your role is to guide clients to discover their own solutions to challenges and foster personal growth in the process.

On the other hand, mentoring is about drawing from personal or professional experience and guiding a mentee who’s interested in the same field you specialize in. Usually, mentors are experts in the fields they’re offering advice on.

These famous quotes clearly define each approach:

Coaching is unlocking people’s potential to maximize their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.” — Tim Gallwey

Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.” — John Crosby 

Now let’s dive deeper into understanding the key similarities and differences between coaching and mentoring.

Coach vs. Mentor: Key Similarities

Coaching and mentoring have a lot of similar elements, such as:

  • Building rapport and connection with clients
  • Supporting the client’s growth and development
  • Exploring growth opportunities in their careers or business
  • Being committed to the client’s success but not attached to it

They both aim to give the client direction through goal-oriented conversations. Yet, they know that it is the client’s responsibility to take the actions necessary to achieve the desired results.

So, what sets them apart?

What is The Difference Between a Mentor and a Coach?

Even though coaching and mentoring may sound similar in many ways, there are several aspects in which they differ.

Approach

The most significant difference between the two roles is the way information is given. 

A mentor’s primary approach is to give advice, while a coach rarely does so. A mentor gives direction and information, while a coach guides the client to discover that information.

A coach doesn’t need to have previous knowledge, skills, or experience on the subject of the session. On the other hand, a mentor is usually an expert in the field the client is interested in.

Training

Coaches are more likely to have previous training on coaching skills and methodology to guide clients through a clear process.

Mentors are less likely to be trained and more likely to rely on their professional background and experience.

Role

A coach asks powerful questions to elicit insights.

Coaches know that everyone has everything they need within themselves to create the life they really want. And they look for ways to elicit insights in their clients so they can see this as well.

On the other hand, a mentor’s focus is to share their own experience and give direct advice.

Mentors bring their knowledge, skills, and experience to the table to guide others. They have a more direct role in the conversation, and they’re able to bring specific case studies of issues they’ve worked on before.

Tools

Coaching facilitates awareness and self-directed learning, while mentors share their wisdom to provide insight and guidance.

This is why you might see a mentor speak most of the time during the session, while in a coaching session, the coach will be quiet for the most part, listening to what their client has to say.

Objectives

A mentor starts the relationship with a client who already knows what they want before starting the conversation.

A coach helps the person identify what they want and how to create it for themselves.

Comparison chart of coaching vs mentoring

Which Approach Fits You Best?

Now that you have more clarity on the similarities and differences between a life coach vs. mentor, let’s go deeper into which of these two approaches is best for you.

Mark each statement in the list that resonates with you in terms of how you prefer to work with clients.

A coach…

  1. Enjoys being curious about the way the other person sees their world.
  2. Uses their client’s experience as a way for them to create the results that they want.
  3. Encourages their client to be self-accountable for their actions.
  4. Focuses on helping their clients get clear on what they want, reflect on different perspectives, and explore new possibilities.
  5. Has a formal relationship with their clients, where there is a cadence of structured sessions to work toward their goals.

A mentor…

  1. Enjoys sharing their knowledge and directing their clients to the best possible outcome for them.
  2. Uses their personal experience to help their clients achieve their results.
  3. Leads a more hand-holding process with their clients.
  4. Works with their clients to give them detailed guidance to reach the goal that they have already identified.
  5. Creates a relationship with clients that’s more informal and, depending on the mentor’s availability.

See whether you’ve marked more statements in the coach vs. mentor category. This can inform which methodology you prefer to follow when helping clients.

How Do I Find a Mentor or Coach?

As you navigate these career paths, you can benefit from working with a coach or a mentor yourself. Here’s how you can find the right one for you:

Finding the right mentor

  1. You have to be clear on what you want to achieve professionally, both in the short and long term. The clearer you are on your goals, the easier it will be to find the right mentor for you, as you’ll know what background and experience you are looking for.
  1. Think about someone you admire or look up to. Think about the person that you want to become in the next 5–10 years. That will describe what kind of mentor you are looking for. Once you define that, start looking around in your network.
  1. Look for a person who has the time and disposition to help you in the process. This will offer consistency in your relationship with them.
  1. Find someone who is a couple of steps ahead of you, so they understand the best ways to help you.

Finding the right coach

  1. Get clear on the area of your life that you need support in. It may be related to your health, relationships, or career. You don’t need to have specific goals. You just need to know that you are ready for a shift and for growth in that specific area.
  1. Look for a coach who specializes in the area that you want to work on. Decide whether credentials are important for you and see if you can find some client testimonials about them.
  1. Find someone who resonates with you. Someone who allows you to be heard and seen without judgment. Someone who creates a safe space for you to explore new opportunities and perspectives.
  1. Have a discovery session with your coach first to get familiar with their coaching process. This will set clear expectations for what it’s like to work with them.

Having someone to support you in this journey will not only help you grow but also allow you to experience first-hand what you can give to your own clients.

Two men in a coaching conversation

From Insights to Action

Knowing when to put on your coaching or mentoring hat can help you give your clients what they most need for their growth. And just like any committed professional, sometimes you need to put on your coachee hat as well.

In 2022, I decided to be coached by one of the Mindvalley coaches, and I loved it!” says Patrizia Tammaro Silva, a CEO from Milan, Italy, who went through the Mindvalley Certified Coach program. My life has improved, and that year has been my most profitable year ever. I decided then to take a step further and enroll in the program.”

Unlock the key to maximizing your impact, abundance, and freedom by joining us in the Become a Mindvalley Certified Life Coach free masterclass.

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Written by

Francesca Facio

Francesca Facio is a human optimization coach, international speaker, and consultant in life design. She is also the head of Mindvalley Certifications. With a postgraduate degree in Happiness & Organizational Well-being and a certification in pranic healing, she combines the Western practices of coaching with the Eastern practices of healing to help her clients find their life purpose, ignite their passion, and take the steps toward their personal freedom.
Picture of Francesca Facio

Francesca Facio

Francesca Facio is a human optimization coach, international speaker, and consultant in life design. She is also the head of Mindvalley Certifications. With a postgraduate degree in Happiness & Organizational Well-being and a certification in pranic healing, she combines the Western practices of coaching with the Eastern practices of healing to help her clients find their life purpose, ignite their passion, and take the steps toward their personal freedom.
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Mindvalley is committed to providing reliable and trustworthy content. We rely heavily on evidence-based sources, including peer-reviewed studies and insights from recognized experts in various personal growth fields. Our goal is to keep the information we share both current and factual. To learn more about our dedication to reliable reporting, you can read our detailed editorial standards.

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Fact-Checking: Our Process

Mindvalley is committed to providing reliable and trustworthy content. 

We rely heavily on evidence-based sources, including peer-reviewed studies and insights from recognized experts in various personal growth fields. Our goal is to keep the information we share both current and factual. 

The Mindvalley fact-checking guidelines are based on:

To learn more about our dedication to reliable reporting, you can read our detailed editorial standards.