Coaching vs. Mentoring


January 23, 2013

In the last blog post, we explored the need for intention in a coaching relationship. Yes, you have to have a relationship first. And yes, both of you have to intentionally choose to use at least a portion of your relational time for coaching.

But it's really a third part of the equation that makes the real difference. In a coaching relationship, adding purpose into the conversation is what gives your coaching relationships depth and integrity. You can have as solid a relationship as you can imagine plus a high commitment to being intentional, but without a purpose (knowing exactly WHAT you want to accomplish), the coaching relationship is at risk of going nowhere.

Remember this simple equation from a previous post:  Relationship + intention + purpose = coaching.

statue of libertyThink about purpose like the destination for a trip you're planning. You know where you are when you start, but do you really know where you're going to end up, specifically? A family vacation might head for the Grand Canyon or the Statue of Liberty... That's pretty clear, and easy to get your mind around. And that's exactly the kind of clarity of purpose a coaching relationship needs.

But not all coaching relationships have that clear destination in mind--especially before starting. The most effective coaches say to their client "we are going to get to where you want to go together." That's purpose. There's no conversation about route--at least not at the beginning--there's only a commitment to get where the client wants to go together.

Now how about this related equation:  Relationship + intention + __________ = mentoring?

A mentor relationship comes at the process with different goals.Focused Arrows Reproducing skills that the mentor already has in the person being mentored is what a mentor relationship is about. A mentor might even say, "here's where you're going to end up when you have the skills that I have."

In fact, most times the person being mentored doesn’t choose the destination, the route to get there, or how the relationship plays out. All of those cards are in hand of the mentor.

So let's finish the equation like this:  relationship + intention + replication=mentoring.

There's something useful in a line that’s been said by more than one coach trainer: "the coach draws out while a mentor pours in."

Finally, a mentor is not any better than a coach Nor is a coach any better than a mentor. The trick is knowing when to do which one. More on this as this series of blog posts continues.

For more from Jonathan Reitz, please click here.

Jonathan ReitzJonathan Reitz has a number of impressive titles at CoachNet Global (Chairman/CEO/Guy with Coffee).  Jonathan has been coaching since 1996 and has worked with over 500 clients in the church, the non-profit sector and the business world. 

  “Coaching plays a part in the kind of leadership the world needs,” says Jonathan Reitz.  “I want to be a part of that.”

Contact Jonathan Reitz at or by phone at 440.550.4374.  Follow him on Twitter @jonathanreitz

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