As a master coach and speaker on the topic of mentorship, I am often asked: “What is the difference between coaching and mentorship?”

There are a number of businesses promoting mentorship while at the same time introducing formal coaching programs to enhance individual performance.  Participants who are driven by success often ask about the difference with a clear definition for how they may participate and apply each concept to their own success track.

The short answer: coaching is a formal relationship based on skill development, that is process driven and results oriented. Mentorship, on the other hand, is informal, exchanging industry information and sharing life experience.

Here is a quick chart for reference:

Formal business relationship
Specific term or duration
Specific dates/times to meet
Results oriented
Individual or team
Trained or Certified Individual 

Informal personal relationship
Usually no time limit
No set schedule
Sharing and exchanging industry information
Life experience

Many articles have been written on creating a distinction between the two different types of relationships.  They both are equally important to an individuals journey and you will often find that someone who engages a coach also has had a mentor. We exchange information based on the following skills:

  • active listening
  • empathy
  • decision making and flexibility
  • open communication
  • problem solving
  • leadership
  • negotiation, to name a few…

Each relationship is built on trust and respect, building confidence that contributes to personal and professional development. One relationship may support the other at different times throughout a career and be just as important to the overall journey for success.

Coaching is for a specific duration of time, results driven with deliverables and skill development. A good coach is able to work in various industry sectors while a mentor is often someone from within the industry, sharing personal experience.  

From my point of view, each is equally important and contributes to an individuals success tack.  Finding the right person and making a solid connection will create a foundation for distinguishing which is the better option based on your current situation. 

As a coach, I often work with individuals who have had a mentor and are now ready for a formal business relationship to enhance their toolbox of resources for continued success with specific deliverables and skill development to increase their performance. A success track that often starts with a mentor, is an introduction to new conversations on how to adapt and change with someone who is “coachable.”

I’m an advocate for finding the right type of relationship based on your own success track, each will provide support and encourage confidence to ensure that you are able to break barriers based on your own journey.

Where to start? Connect with a mentor that you respect and is widely successful in your industry, then, when the time is right find a coach who will introduce you to the resources that will encourage you to move to the next level of success.  Find both a coach and mentor who have experienced each relationship in their own career.  Nothing is better than working with someone who walks the walk and talks the talk.

What is absolutely important is your commitment to being coachable and making the right connection to accomplish your list of personal and professional goals.

Whether you choose a coach, mentor or combination of both is based on your own personal definition for success.

Be wildly successful!

Trish Tonaj is a Certifed Master Coach, Author, Mentor and Speaker offering keynotes and workshops on how to amplify your success. Trish is the founder and guest blog host for a portal in support of mentorship and the entrepreneurial spirit.  We invite you to share your story!