What’s the difference between a business mentor and a business coach?


The terms mentoring and coaching are often used interchangeably by the majority of people. Most of us assume that they are in fact one and the same thing. To some extent that’s understandable as both business mentoring and business coaching programmes involve a confidential one-to-one relationship between a mentee and a trusted adviser, and both can focus on either personal development, career development, or occasionally a combination of the two. Quite often a coach can also function as a mentor, and vice-versa. But are mentoring and coaching actually the same thing, or are they in fact two distinct disciplines?


What is business coaching?


If you look at the broader picture, then business coaches try to help an individual deal more confidently and competently with critical short-term issues. Coaching is aimed at helping individuals develop leadership and management skills to cope with immediate business concerns and issues that have been identified by processes like performance reviews and assessments. Business coaches also play a pivotal role by providing inspiration, encouragement and motivation. They can give you an occasional sharp reminder to help you stay focused and concentrating on the vital priorities and objectives.


A business coach’s ultimate aim is to help a ‘student’ develop strategies that will have both an immediate and long-term impact on the business environment.  To a large extent coaching is centred on outcomes that can be attained in a relatively short time frame. Once attained, the job of the business coach is done, though the coaching relationship may be extended if other areas are identified that are suitable for additional business coaching.  


What is meant by business mentoring?


Business mentoring is usually a less-structured and longer-running process which is broader in scope and generally pursues a wider and more open-ended agenda. In essence business mentoring focuses on longer term goals, though its benefits can also be felt in the short term too. Business mentoring is usually more holistic and often deals with the broader backdrop of the mentee’s life and career. The essential difference between coaching and mentoring is that coaching aims to impart skills, whereas mentoring is focused on imparting wisdom in using these skills.


Business mentors focus on issues like:


  • career satisfaction
  • professional development
  • important life transitions
  • personal growth
  • building executive presence
  • preparing for promotion
  • dealing with life in a new and unfamiliar role
  • keeping life and work in balance
  • dealing with corporate politics
  • developing leadership and management skills


Although business mentors can act as coaches, they can also serve as confidants, supportive listeners, sounding boards, guides and tutors. Mentees may meet less frequently with business mentors, but when they do meet, they tend to find the sessions are usually longer and more wide-ranging. Because the scope of…

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