Helping women thrive

5 Differences Between A Coach And A Mentor

Successful Woman Entrepreneur - women at computer with coach mentor - ruffle mentoring

“There is a moment when you no longer need to be pushed up from below, but rather pulled up from above. Know when that moment comes and adjust your strategy accordingly.”

 – Clifford Cohen

You may notice a lot of talk lately about the differences between mentors and coaches. It can be downright confusing what the difference in their role actually is, right?

However, there are some very distinct differences between a coach and a mentor. 

When given the opportunity, women actually thrive under mentorships, despite not having used mentors informally as men have in the past. 

But there can certainly be some overlap in the skills of a Mentor and a Coach.  And this makes it difficult to know whether a mentor or a coach is best to help us with our business, career, or life.

Differences Between a Coach and a Mentor

A Mentor is widely considered to have achieved success and therefore experience-based. 

But, there are many coaches out there who have also achieved the success that they teach.

Huh? Yes, I hear you.

Well, it seems that the main difference lies in the type of help you are looking for. And yes, you can have both.

Coaches and Mentors in the Workplace

Coaches have often been hired by companies to help employees improve their performance and learn new skills. For example, if you’re a salesperson at a company, you might be assigned a coach who will help you advance your selling expertise. If you’re a manager, you might hire a coach to help you develop your leadership skills. 

However, there is currently an increasing trend for companies to engage Mentors for employees. In fact, it’s been named one of the top trends to watch this year. During a time of skills shortage, switched-on companies are doing all they can to retain top talent and to re-engage employees who are quietly quitting.

With engaged employees considered to be as low as 32%, a Mentor who has previously been in their position is assigned to help a person feel supported. It is also envisaged that a mentor may help people grow their careers and aspire to leadership roles within the company.

So how does this differ from what a coach does? 

Let me explain by looking at 5 differences between a coach and a mentor.

1. Is a Mentor Free or Paid?

Mentors are people who have certain experiences in life, career, or business and can translate this as advice to others. They can be a free, informal mentor such as a friend, family member, or work colleague. Alternatively, a mentor can be engaged formally where they are paid to mentor you.

A coach, on the other hand, is remunerated as it is often their main business or career. They are trained to help you succeed. They may or may not have experience in your field but they know how to help you achieve the success you are looking for.

2. The Experience of a Mentor vs a Coach

Mentors are more experienced than you. They have already achieved success, so they offer advice and guidance based upon their own direct lived experience. They know what you’re going through! Often they share the mistakes they made and how you might be able to avoid them. They can guide you through the process of making changes, or give you some tips to help you avoid pitfalls along the way.

A business, life, or career coach, on the other hand, may not have direct lived experience but they know how to help you achieve your goals and get results. They focus on achieving the outcome you need.

3. The Responsibility of a Mentor vs a Coach

A Mentor gives advice based upon their experience without having to worry about whether or not it will work out for you. Don’t get me wrong, they sure want you to succeed! But it is up to you whether you choose to take the information or advice they give. They will encourage you, but there is no deadline imposed to get things done.

A coach, on the other hand, is there to help you get results and hold you accountable to get things done! They’re there to support you every step of the way and they do what it takes to get you there. A coach is professionally invested – they’ve got skin in the game.

4. Advice and Skills Differences of a Mentor or a Coach

A mentor will answer questions you have in an area you are tackling at the time. You might need to know how they went about setting up a board, finding the right suppliers, or finding investors. You might want to know how they personally managed their money to achieve financial success or how they dealt with difficult people. A Mentor will give you advice based on your question or situation and you can learn from the mistakes they made.

In contrast, a business or career coach will take a strategic approach. You will work through their program which is usually based on the goals you have in place. A coach will focus on areas strategically and take you through step by step, while also addressing issues that crop up along the way.

The goal of a coach is to help you become better at what you do, which means helping you improve your performance and outcome. Put simply, they teach you skills. Coaches often use a variety of strategic methods to accomplish this.

5. Reaching Your Potential with a Mentor or Coach

A mentor will help you develop and grow through their sharing of their own experience.  They have been where you want to go and will share specific information that they believe may help you. They will be very encouraging and you will feel supported to reach your potential.

Coaches are skilled at asking questions to help you find answers for yourself. They can help you figure out what you need to do. A coach considers it their role to help you reach your full potential and they will push you to do so by helping you step out of your comfort zone to realise your hidden talents and resources.

The Benefits of a Mentor and a Coach

There is a notable benefit to having both a mentor and a coach!

You may be developing yourself, your team and your business or career through a coaching program, whilst at the same time, meeting up with a mentor a couple of times a year. In addition, you might occasionally see an intuitive guide to mentor you and a health mentor. 

The great news is that we don’t have to go it alone anymore! Gone are the superwoman days when we were supposed to naturally be amazing at everything. We are now all here to support one another in this beautiful, chaotic, messy thing called life!


Here’s one big similarity between a mentor and a coach.

They both will create an atmosphere of non-judgment, trust, and support. And they both can help you pinpoint what is holding you back.

So, whatever you choose to do – do something.

The best thing I ever did was engage a coach and, yes, I have mentors too!

People are often surprised at that, but even someone who’s been a coach for almost 2 decades needs a coach.

I can so clearly see my client’s stuff but I can’t always see my own.

We are all human! 

Karyn Business Coach - smiling - co-founder Ruffle Mentoring - differences mentor coach
Karyn Lynch - Co-Founder Ruffle Mentoring

Karyn Lynch is co-founder of Ruffle, and has been a highly sought-after business coach and speaker for almost 2 decades. She is your go-to coach to grow your coaching  or online business and get clear on your vision, goals, marketing, pricing, sales, or profit.

View Karyn’s profile


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