Coaching and Mentoring — What’s the Difference?

Coaching and Mentoring — What’s the Difference?
Jillian Bateman — April 20, 2021

I have a confession: I love watching the NCAA March Madness Tournament … not because I am some huge basketball fan, but mainly because of the excitement and the ability for an underdog team to get a huge win. Watching these young athletes pour their heart and soul into 40 minutes of play is inspiring.  

I recently watched the women’s championship game, and it did not disappoint. The game went down to the final buzzer, and I loved seeing the teamwork and appreciation the girls had for each other.  

In this game, the coaches from each side were fun to watch, too. One was an inyourface coach, who wasn’t going to let her team back down or give up. The other was tenacious and strategic but said very little. It made me curious about how these two approaches were so different, but both seemed to bring out success in their team. It was hard to say, as I was just a casual viewer from afar, but I do know that there are similarities in workforce development.  

Sometimes an in-your-face, inspiring coach is what an employee needs to push through challenging projects; other times, a steady and consistent advisor is neededAs such, the terms coaching and mentoring are used substantially in the training and professional growth fieldyet many don’t realize that these two concepts are not interchangeable. 

Coaching is strategic support given that tends to be tied to a timeline — not something that goes on for an indefinite period — and achieves specific competencies. The main goal of coaching is to help a “coachee” learn specific skills and encourage them to continue growing. For example, a coach may be assigned to help an employee learn management skills. In this scenario, the coach would be a seasoned manager who has had great success leading others. Goals would be established in which both the coach and coachee would be responsible for meeting them and customized coaching would take place during scheduled meetings based on the coachee’s needs and growth plan. This relationship is one of collaboration so that the coach can customize their guidance based on the personality of the coachee  


Coaching and Mentoring — What’s the Difference?


Mentoring, on the other hand, is a long-term relationship that has no specific timeline and is established to share a work ethic that is both professionally and personally fulfilling. Mentors are usually individuals who have been successful in a wide range of areas and are willing to pass along their vast amount of knowledge to another. They act as advisors, providing direction and encouragement that inspires mentees to grow and strive to improve their abilities in a wide range of areas  financial aptitude, networking, business ethics, team building, etc. Therefore, rapport between the mentor and the mentee is critical, as both need to feel committed to the relationship for long-term sharing to be successful. In fact, many successful business leaders will tell you that one of the keys to their success is a mentor who stuck with them through their professional journey. 

Knowing and differentiating between coaching and mentoring can help you develop growth plans for your own teamsA good way to decide if someone needs a coach or a mentor is by making a list of skills you would like the employee to develop. If they are tied to a specific skill, such as improving their customer service skills, then that would entail a coach. However, if you are looking to have the person grow into a management position that needs to be adept at leadership, budgeting, strategic planning, etc., then you are going to want to find that person a mentor.   

Do not limit yourself to finding a coach or mentor from within the company. Looking outside your company is something I encourage as it will provide some fresh insight into non-unique skills. There are many professional groups that your company can join to gain access to other skilled folks that are willing to share their ideas. Obviously, I strongly recommend getting more engaged in the Electronic Security Association (ESA), so that you can connect with other industryfocused individuals who are willing to act as a coach or mentor. You may think that association member peers are not willing to share because they don’t want to help their competition, but many times they truly aren’t a competitor as they are in a different region or vertical.  

Attending ESA’s events are also perfect ways to find skilled coaches or mentors. Consider session presenters since our speakers are chosen because they have had success in specific areas.  

For more information on ESA’s upcoming events and to get involved, visit