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Business Mentoring vs Coaching - what's the difference?

𝗖𝗼𝗮𝗰𝗵𝗶𝗻𝗴 and 𝗺𝗲𝗻𝘁𝗼𝗿𝗶𝗻𝗴 both exist for the same purpose: helping others grow, develop and reach their full potential. This can lead to some people using the words “mentoring” and “coaching” interchangeably, but they do not describe the same type of working relationship. So what are the key differences?

The Key Elements of Business Coaching

The Definition: A coach is someone who provides guidance to a client on their goals and helps them reach their full potential.

There is no such thing as a business coach, contrary to what you may have heard. That’s because the term business coach is way too broad to be useful in this context. Rather, business coaches instead have a specific arena of expertise and are specially trained and knowledgeable in that arena. When they are hired by, it’s to help the business owner improve specific skills the coach has expertise in, versus broad pieces of general advice.

  • Short Term: While this isn't a hard and fast rule, coaching is often shorter-term and can be as short as a quick 10- or 15-minute conversation.

  • Qualifications Required: There are lots of coaching qualifications available, and almost always necessary and certainly recommended, to be a truly effective coach.

  • Highly Structured: Coaching is usually structured by line managers or sponsors who will often send an employee to be coached for a certain skill/s.

  • Non Directive: It's focused on posing the right questions, providing the space, trust and confidence for the individual being coached to consider how they can achieve more, reach their objectives, and find capabilities within themselves.

  • Performance Driven: Highly targeted to encouraging the individual being coached to improve performance in their day-to-day roles.

The Key Elements of Business Mentoring

The Definition: A mentor is someone who shares their knowledge, skills and/or experience, to help another to develop and grow.

The best way to think about the difference between a mentor and a coach is that while a coach is hired to help improve specific skills, a mentor serves as a voluntary guide or confidant. Mentorships usually last for much longer than coaching relationships, and can also turn into a friendship that can last for a lifetime.

  • Long Term: When contrasted with coaching, mentoring is often longer-term with some mentoring relationships lasting more than six months (there are countless examples of mentorships lasting years).

  • No Qualifications Required: It may surprise you to learn that there are no qualifications required for mentoring. While mentoring training is often recommended, it isn’t mandatory and in fact, there are very few mentoring qualifications offered.

  • Less Structured: Whilst having a mentoring meeting agenda and goals is always recommended, it is up to the mentee to put this together, compared with coaching which typically follows a far more rigorous structure.

  • Directive: The mentor shares their skills, experience, and knowledge with the mentee, guiding them through direction.

  • Development Driven: The mentee is tasked with deciding what they wish to achieve and what goals they have for the process.

The CopperFox Approach

At CopperFox, our approach is to document the current situation and the skills we all agree require development and then develop case studies to tease out the required skills from the Mentee, as well as encourage the Mentee to be involved in projects and initiatives that will enhance their knowledge and experience (with our supervision, guidance).

If you'd like to learn more, contact us at or visit the Executive Mentoring section of our website.

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