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Coaching Vs Mentoring: 7 Key Differences

Coaching versus mentoring, what’s the difference? Quite a bit, actually.

If you have a mentor you can rely on consistently, someone who has helped you build your business or career, and who has experience and expertise you can tap into, consider yourself lucky!

While formal and informal mentoring is fairly common in the corporate world, it’s more rare in the small business environment.

Which is why it is fortunate that small business coaching services are available to you, and that many small business coaches offer support, advice, and guidance that might typically be thought of as “mentoring.”

Below some of the key differences between coaching and mentoring.

1) Mentoring is a two-way relationship, with the mentor often tacitly or explicitly expecting something in return. Business coaching, on the other hand, is all about you. Once you hire a coach, all efforts will be directed toward your benefit.

2) Mentors typically have a deep, personal interest in you. A business coach is unbiased, with no vested interest in specific outcomes, which can be a good thing.

3) Mentors act as sounding boards, often letting you find your own way, replete with mistakes and missteps that serve as “learning experiences.” Business coaches can also serve as sounding boards, but they will typically be more proscriptive in their approaches, directly guiding you down paths that will likely lead to the most success.

4) Mentoring can take place over an indefinite period of time, potentially for years, in fits and starts. A business coaching relationship is typically more defined, in timeframe and scope.

5) Mentoring relationships tend to be more casual, with specific outcomes rarely articulated. Most business coaches, on the other hand, will help you define specific goals and hold you accountable in reaching those goals. Business coaches can also serve in consultative roles, providing practical and tactical assistance with marketing, finances, strategy, leadership, and more.

6) As a general rule, mentoring is development driven – primarily designed to help you develop skills and relationships. While business coaching can also aid in development, the focus of coaching generally is more performance driven. One of the main purposes of coaching is to help you improve your performance, in whichever areas you choose.

Become a better manager. Improve your organizational skills. Manage your finances more tightly. Increase efficiency in your operations. Find a healthier work-life balance. Increase your marketing. Expand your business operations. Develop a network of gatekeepers and influencers. Clarify and express your vision. Develop better branding. A small business coach can help you do all of this and more!

7) Mentoring is typically less structured and less formal, with meetings taking place only when the mentee reaches out for support or guidance. Business coaching is more structured, with meetings scheduled on a regular basis, assignments of “homework,” and even e-mail “check-ins.”

To learn more about mentoring versus small business coaching, schedule your free coaching consultation with a business coach, or e-mail

In the free consult with a small business coach, you can find out what type of approach the coach takes, in terms of coaching, mentoring, and/or consulting.

Please note: You might also want to read about business coaching vs business consulting.

If your small business is located in Denver, Colorado, or the U.S., we’d love to help you! E-mail or call (720) 312-8737 for more info.