Mentoring vs coaching: the differences

Mentoring vs coaching: the differences

18 November 2020
Veerle Seymus
Veerle Seymus
  • Mentoring and coaching are often used interchangeably in a business context. Though they share the same goal of personal development, there is a big difference between a mentor and a coach.

  • A coach has some great questions for your answers; a mentor has some great answers for your questions.

    Brefi Group
  • What is the classical definition of mentoring and coaching?

  • Sir John Whitmore: “Coaching is unlocking people’s potential to maximize their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.” Coaches have a strong belief in individuals learning things for themselves, in their own way, and that it is the coach’s role: to facilitate the individual’s potential to do so.

    Andrew Pollard defines mentoring as ‘Mentoring is a means of providing support, challenge and extension of the learning of one person through the guidance of another who is more skilled, knowledgeable and experienced, particularly in relation to the context in which the learning is taking place.’ in his book Reflective Teaching. And he explains further: “Mentoring has its origins in the concept of apprenticeship, where an older, more experienced individual passed down his knowledge of how the task was done and how to operate in the commercial world.”

  • How does Ambits distinguish between mentoring and coaching?

  • Mentoring:

    • the main focus of an Ambits mentor is passing on specific leadership and people management skills and expertise
    • a mentor is an expert in an industry and advises based on his/her personal experience and expertise
    • a mentor serves as a professional advisor and role model to the mentee
    • Ambits mentoring is a process that is managed as a project with a strict timeline, deadlines, milestones, feedback, iteration, reviews and even a post mortem
    • a mentor uses clearly defined goals for the mentee that are aligned to the business strategy. Thus, mentoring is also to the benefit of the organization
    • mentoring requires the indirect involvement of the manager of an employee
    • due to its personal and informal nature, a mentoring relationship has the potential to last a lifetime
    • a mentor gives pragmatical, hands-on advice based on experience and knowledge and for immediate use on the shop floor


    • a coach is specifically trained to guide people in any field
    • a coach helps the individual find their own solution rather than offering their own advice
    • a coach aims at realizing the coachees' true motives, values, and emotions regarding current issues
    • a coach does not have hands-on experience of the kind of work the coachee is engaged in
    • for coaching to be successful, the coachee’s ability for self-reflection is mandatory
    • due to its introspective nature, coaching can be confrontational
    • coaching provides the opportunity to reflect, deepen your awareness and take meaningful action
    • coaching revolves more around specific personal development areas related to behavior, attitudes, values, and motivation
  • Watch Ambits mentor Inge De Smet explain

  • Inge touches on the added value of a mentor and gives tips to leaders

  • Inge De Smet still
  • Mentoring and coaching are two development techniques that often overlap but are not to be confused.

    The combination of coaching and mentoring is extremely beneficial for the professional and career growth of employees. When organizations encourage formal mentoring and coaching activities, it sends a strong positive message of commitment to a longer-term engagement.

Struggles of a manager

Managers are

  • not or inadequately trained in this role


    • lack self-confidence
    • don’t know how to go from being a colleague to being a boss
    • need to loosen up on the command & control leadership style
    • must let go of the (technical) expert status
    • cannot give or accept constructive feedback
    • feel pressure to perform as manager
    • have difficulty building relationships
    • want to be liked by everyone or want to be the ‘bad boss’
    • play the hero
  • are struggling


    • stay too involved in operations
    • have trouble prioritizing
    • cannot delegate
    • fear conflict situations
    • disconnect from the team
    • deal with flawed strategic thinking
    • do not relate to higher management
    • lack clear communication skills
    • remain not self-aware
    • avoid difficult conversations
    • miss political antennas
    • ...
  • capable of more


    • need mental preparation as successor
    • need to be able to lead big changes ahead
    • need to learn to be emotionally resilient and in control
    • need to learn to make big decisions fast without all the information
    • must become persuasive presenters
    • need to learn how to cultivate their own personal brand
    • need to learn how to lead by example
    • manage by trust, not by fear
    • need to overly develop empathy
    • ...
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