Coaching and Mentoring

I was asked recently what I thought the difference was between “coaching” and “mentoring”.

This caused me to think about some specific people in my life over the years that have played a part in my personal growth and development.

•I remember vividly my “coach” in high school.  Not only did he coach me on the basketball court and soccer field, but he coached me in life.  Some things that he did:

– He focused on my growth as a leader and an athlete

– He told me what I needed to do in order to have greater success

– He showed me how to do things.

– He was placed in authority in my life, and I happily learned from him and followed him.

•I remember a “mentor“of mine in college.  He made the decision to invest in my life, and I learned a great deal from him. Some things that he did:

– He asked a lot of questions about what I wanted to do and who I wanted to be

– He offered me lot’s of advice, ideas and suggestions and gave me the choice of what to do.

– He provided other tools and resources to help me grow and develop.

– He focused on my growth as an individual.

– I chose him and asked him to invest some time into my life.


There are some very clear differences between “coaching” and “mentoring”.

I believe that we need them both!

We need coaches to tell us what to do, to push us, to help us achieve goals, to grow in our skills.  Coaches help us to get things done. Coaches are deeply involved in the things that we’re involved in.

We need mentors to help us think, to help us process, to help us learn what questions to ask and to provide us with ideas, options and suggestions. Mentors are deeply focused on our personal development and growth.


It’s important that we know the difference between a “coach” and a “mentor”. They really have 2 different purposes, and depending on the stage or season of life you’re in, you may need one more than the other.

If you are in the “producing” stage, where you are trying to get things done, you’re trying to increase production, you’re trying to grow in some ways that will directly affect your work/leadership role, then you want to engage a coach to help you with this process.  They will help you with “external” growth.

If you are in the “evaluation” stage, where you are looking at areas of your life and evaluating them, where you are determining growth areas and examining your motivation and your abilities, then you want to engage a mentor to help you with this process.  They will help you look “inward”.


When you choose a mentor or a coach, be sure to be specific about the goals you have for each of these relationships.  Sometimes we think it’s enough to simply “hang out” with someone and hopefully “something” will rub off.  There is value in this, however I want to encourage you to be specific about the stage of life you’re in, and to select either a “coach” or a “mentor” to help  you focus on a specific area of growth, struggle or success.


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