The differences between executive coaching and mentoring | FAQs

CAREER ADVICE, EXECUTIVE EDUCATION   |   2 minutes  |   December 6, 2016

Executive mentoring and coaching are often mistaken to be a similar field or industry, when in fact they differ quite a lot:

  • Mentoring is an ongoing relationship, whereas a coaching relationship generally has a set duration
  • Mentoring is informal, while coaching tends to be more structured in nature with meetings scheduled on a regular basis
  • Mentoring focuses on career growth and personal development and coaching on development and organisational efficiency
  • A mentor is generally a senior person in the mentee’s organisation or someone who can pass on knowledge and experience. A coach need not have direct experience of a person’s organisation or role

If you’re trying to decide whether your skill set or passion fits into a mentoring or coaching role, then watch this short video in which Dale Williams, Head Tutor on the UCT Foundations of Executive Coaching online short course, explains the distinction between mentoring and coaching.

Want to get the skills to become an expert in mentoring and coaching?


Executive coaching and mentoring fall on two differents ends of a continuum. On the one end of the continuum is a much more directive approach which would be mentoring, and on the other end of that same continuum would be coaching, which is much less directive. What that means is that coaches typically won’t be telling a person what to do.

They’ll be helping them to arrive at their own answers and own solutions through insightful questioning, and through giving feedback and challenging. Whereas a mentor is typically someone who has walked that path before, and they’re able to give more advice, give pointers, and direct a person.

So they would sit on either end of a continuum with coaches much less directive, and mentoring much more directive.