Why Mentoring and Not Coaching?

Updated: May 4


Comparing mentoring and coaching is more pronounced in training and academic exercises. However, in practice, two facts readily avail themselves. One, professional coaches are often equipped with mentoring skills but not necessarily the other way round. Two, employment of coaches, for coaching within organisations whilst the need is for mentoring, often blurs the line or veils the actual role of coaching. Yet mentoring and coaching are very different processes.


Mentoring or coaching? What should be the choice particularly that both are personal development tools? The choice depends on the needs of the organisation. Here is the case for mentoring. Our next blog Why Coaching and not Mentoring? presents just the case for coaching.


Mentoring should be deployed if the need is to transfer knowledge. It is however to note that in mentoring knowledge is actually shared to some extent. After all a mentoree, who is not a novice, may possess, in their own right, knowledge or special skills lacking within the organisation from which a mentor could also benefit. Generally, a mentor is always more knowledgeable or senior in the subject matter.


The process is geared towards retention and increased productivity of an employee through nurturing, providing supporting tools to meet with the challenges of their anticipated role or just enhancing of skills in the subject matter. This makes mentoring mostly career and single-focused with an eye for long term or future roles. It is not uncommon to require mentors to have coaching skills due to more complex dynamics of human relationship involved at senior levels.


Mentoring is usually led by an internal person due to need for expertise in the subject matter. It is, though, not uncommon also to hire experts from outside of the organisation where prerequisite skills and expertise are evidenced. In addition to knowledge and experience in the subject matter are communication and leadership skills necessary to make the process productive.


There is no strict or defined time frame in the mentoring's framework causing possibly unlimited sessions that could be ongoing for years. The informal process usually involves two people, though there have been cases of group mentoring which do not endure and at time questionable as mentoring process. The object in mentoring is to draw out the person with some degree of imposition or directing to empower change because a mentor who is very likely to be a manager or supervisor is presumed to have what it takes to "put things right."


Mentoring benefits personal development of employees and should drive corporate goals whilst addressing possible gaps in knowledge, behaviours, aspirations, skills, attitude, or mentoree’s leadership qualities.


In conclusion organisations should avoid using mentoring to address coaching needs or vice versa. If they do, then the object of developing the individual to situate themselves with confidence to drive corporate goals will be missed.



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In a previous blog, Why Mentoring and not Coaching? the case was made for choosing mentoring over coaching subject to the need of an organisation. It was said that comparison of “mentoring and coachin