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Do I need a coach? Or do I need a mentor?

“ – Do I need a coach? Do I need a mentor instead? I am not sure… after all, what is the difference between the 2 of them?” As a coach, and at the beginning of a chemistry session with my clients, those would be typical questions and rightfully asked of course.

So, what coaching and mentoring differ in?

First, what they have in common:

  • They both aim at supporting their client in achieving their specific goal or objective.

  • A coach and a mentor also use similar tools such as empathy, active listening, being non-judgmental, etc.

Now, the main difference between the two of them resides in the HOW. How a coach or a mentor during a session will help you reach your goals. Let me explain further:

Neutral Role and Non-Neutral Role:

  • A coach will actively help you do a deep dive into yourself in order to bring to light or create a new awareness about yourself and upon which you can take a new course of action. In this case, the coach has an active but NEUTRAL role: a coach firmly believes in their client’s own resources: “you have it all in yourself”.

  • A mentor on the other hand will contribute actively to the session by sharing his expertise, experience, tools, techniques. In this case, the mentor plays also an active but NON-NEUTRAL role.

An Example

So, for example, let’s say that I am struggling with my presentation skills in front of an audience and I want to improve them. A coach will guide me through the process of creating new awareness about myself - How do I function? - What are my internal processes?, etc. and based on this insight, on these new things that I realize about myself, what actions I can then take and commit to, that will eventually help fulfill my objective.

A mentor will actively contribute to the session by sharing what worked for him, for example, the do’s and don’ts that made him a successful speaker. As a mentee I might consider start and apply them in my future presentations.

An Exemple

Using a metaphor from my friend and coach Fabrizio di Paoli that illustrates the difference between coaching and mentoring: “The coach is a travel companion expert in hiking who accompanies the client along the path he has chosen to tackle. The mentor is an expert guide of a specific path who through his own experience, suggests to the client the best way to follow it."

So, do I need a coach, or do I need a mentor? That comes all down to ask yourself the question of what is your objective? Watch the video here:


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