Both mentoring and coaching play a major role in an organization’s human resource development. All employees need support and supervision at various stages of their career, whether it’s about their efficiency, performance, or their effectiveness. However, the words “mentoring” and “coaching” are often used interchangeably, but they have different meanings. So, how do you make the distinction and choose the right one to develop your employees? Let’s have a closer look.


According to David Clutterbuck, a mentor is “a more experienced individual willing to share knowledge with someone less experienced in a relationship of mutual trust.” In other words, mentoring is a counselling process carried out by a mentor (with experience) to support and guide an employee (less experienced) in his career development, to enhance productivity, to improve self-esteem, etc. Their relationship is considered a mentorship, which is usually long-term and informal. The main purpose is to provide an open communication between the two parties to help the employee acquire emotional and social maturity and effectiveness.

On the other hand, coaching is a training and supervision process carried out by a coach to improve an employee’s performance. It is a management development program that takes place between a line manager and his employee. Coaching is normally done for a short-term purpose, specifically to develop skills and improve performance. Employees are enrolled for seminars and workshops, and an expert employee or an external trainer is brought to train them for the purpose of improving their efficiency and identifying training needs for future training programs.

Coaching is task oriented. A coach imparts specific skills to an employee to be able to manage specific events and issues that arise while doing a particular task. The coach is usually an expert in that task, and trains on areas such as speaking confidently and fluently, efficient management of a situation, strategic thinking, and optimal execution of the task to attain the best results.

Mentoring is relationship based. The mentor forms an informal relationship with an employee where the latter shares situations and factors that affect his professional success and failures. The mentor gives guidance beyond expertise and skills by including issues, such as success mind-set, improving self-image, and work/life balance.

The main objective of coaching is to improve performance in a particular task by developing the required skills in an employee. Hence the performance of the coach is based on the employee’s ability to render the task.

Mentoring is meant to develop the personality of an employee, both professionally and personally. David Clutterbuck comments that “mentoring involves primarily listening with empathy, sharing experiences (usually mutually), professional friendship, developing insight through reflection, being a sounding board, encouraging.” So, the mentor helps the employee build self-image, confidence, and other personal aspects. Hence, the performance of the mentor is based on the overall development of the employee.

The difference between mentoring and coaching is mainly the goals and goal setting. In coaching, the coach sets goals for the employee, while in mentoring, the employee sets his or her own goals.