Being a coach, mentor, or manager is a position of responsibility. That is clear. Less clear, however, is the difference between these roles. 

While it’s true they all involve supporting others, often the responsibilities of each of these roles overlap, creating confusion. Although management is distinctively different, the line between coaching and mentoring blurs a little to some. 

In this post, we discuss the difference between coaching and mentoring. We’ll also take a look at how management, coaching and mentoring relate to each other, and why management professionals should improve their coaching skills.

What is mentoring?

Mentoring is a partnership in which a more experienced person, the mentor, guides a less experienced person, the mentee. 

Both parties may operate within the same organisation, or one may be an outside party.

Mentoring provides a role model who will share their knowledge and transfer their skills, helping the mentee to develop for the long-term benefit of both themselves and the organisation.

Perhaps the differentiating factor of a mentor is how they interact. Mentors impart their knowledge and skills, teaching from experience. They focus on providing instructions rather than fostering self-reliance.

What is coaching?

Coaching, like mentoring, is a partnership focusing on the long-term development of a person. 

The purpose of the coaching is to help the trainee to improve their performance, explore their potential, and progress to a higher level in their organisation and further in their career. 

Effective coaching can prepare employees for leadership positions, and better equip them to be more effective managers.

Unlike mentoring, the focus of coaching is based on encouraging the trainee to adapt their ways of thinking and become more resourceful. Coaching is not instructional but rather more supportive, allowing the trainee to discover and explore their strengths and weaknesses, and overcome their challenges.

Coaching vs mentoring vs management: are they related? 

The single biggest aspect that management, coaching, and mentoring have in common is the fundamental role of supporting a person. 

Managers provide support by helping employees to solve problems, and they keep alert to any training requirements the employee may have. The manager’s role, over and above leading the team to perform effectively, is to support and encourage their team. 

Coaches support people by encouraging them, helping them to develop so they can perform better. Unlike management or mentoring, however, coaching is less instructional. The onus is on the trainee, the employee, to form conclusions and decide how to proceed. Coaching doesn’t mean allowing employees to slip up, but rather enabling them to become confident, resourceful, and self-aware through using their initiative. 

Mentoring offers a clearer level of guidance alongside support. Whereas the coach remains objective, the mentor will offer opinions and issue instructions to the mentee, which, to an extent, brings mentoring closer to management. Like coaching, however, mentoring can assist the mentee in transitioning to roles at a higher level or to roles in different areas of expertise.

Why every manager should develop mentoring skills 

Employees are demanding more from their roles. They truly wish to serve their organisations and be part of something bigger. They want to make a valid contribution, explore their potential, and make a difference, rather than merely collect a salary and then go home. 

Coaching and mentoring should lead to an inclusive, positive and ambitious environment. It also helps with employee retention while boosting morale, enhancing organisational culture, and creating a new generation of vested leaders.

Being able to coach and mentor well is an essential part of helping employees to succeed. Mentored and coached employees tend to progress, and, as a result, assist the organisation in achieving its objectives.

Mentoring in the workplace builds self-awareness

Building a culture of self-awareness is important not just in management, but in any walk of life. 

Understanding your strengths and weaknesses breeds success personally and professionally, by creating the opportunity to transform weaknesses into strengths and to maximise your potential. 

It’s possible to underestimate your skills or, even worse, to overestimate them, both of which can have a detrimental impact on the team and organisation. 

Poor quality work, missed deadlines, and lower productivity is just some of the ways it can impact the organisation. The feedback from coaching and mentorship provides team members with an opportunity to elevate their performance and protect the organisation from the damaging effects of a lack of self-awareness.

Coaching mentoring empowers employees

If an employee requires training, or if the manager feels an employee could succeed at a higher level, it’s part of their remit to help them develop so the employee can serve the organisation to the best of their ability. 

Good mentoring skills can facilitate this progression.

Coaching is also a matter of empowerment that benefits managers, employees, and the organisation. It develops a change in thinking that allows employees to identify their challenges, and find solutions to them. This self-advocacy and critical thinking allows for a greater level of employee autonomy and frees up valuable to focus on other management duties.

A mentoring scheme improves motivation and employee perception

Effective coaching and mentoring can transform how employees feel about their role and the wider organisation. 

Exercising some coaching and mentoring skills will create employees who are more engaged in their roles and who feel they matter. Managers who apply their coaching and mentoring skills inspire their teams, creating a positive environment in which people are motivated and strive to make a difference.

Coaching and mentoring also build trust between the manager and the team. When an employee sees their leader taking an interest in their development, this builds rapport. Mistrust produces demotivation and a lack of engagement and can be triggered when an employee feels undervalued or demotivated. The quality and quantity of output can diminish, which can harm the bottom line or have a damaging effect on the reputation of the organisation. Effective coaching and mentoring can be the foundation of great working relationships and a culture of trust.

Leadership mentoring improves communication 

To guide your team, you must listen to them. Truly listen to them. 

This means practising active listening, so they feel you’re hearing their message. 

Hearing the whole message allows the manager to understand the speaker’s challenges and take the right action to resolve them. This powerful skill strengthens the manager’s connection with their team, who feel heard, respected, and more motivated and engaged. 

Active listening also involves hearing what is not said. If an employee avoids a specific topic or has a big reaction to it, it’s a potential indication of an underlying issue that may need to be addressed. Tone, body language and other verbal and non-verbal cues can provide valuable information that a manager can use to improve communication.

Coaching and mentoring lead to enhanced performance and increased productivity

The self-awareness employees develop from coaching and mentoring, combined with the engagement and motivation generated by a more positive environment, leads to stronger performance and higher levels of productivity. 

A past Gallup poll has found that higher engagement can drive growth, profitability, and productivity, and reduce turnover.

Employees want to have a meaningful impact on their organisation through their work. Coaching and mentoring helps them to maximise their potential, to transition from role to role, in service of the organisation and in the pursuit of their aims as professionals. 

Engaged employees, feeling part of something bigger, are more likely to bring new ideas to the table.

Book a coaching and mentoring course with us

Coaching and mentoring skills allow the manager to support and encourage employees so that they can fulfil their own needs as a professional and achieve satisfaction from their role while serving their organisation to the very best of their ability. Greater confidence, engagement, motivation and self-awareness transform into a more powerful performance from employees and from the manager, who is accountable for the success of the team.

We offer Chartered Management Institute (CMI)-accredited coaching courses at Level 5 and Level 7, as well as a coaching masterclass, for you to build your coaching skills and bring that extra value to your organisation as a manager. To find out more about our coaching and mentoring training, visit our courses page, send us an email to or send us a message using the form on our contact page. Alternatively, you can call us on 0161 826 3139. We welcome your questions and look forward to assisting you on your journey.

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