Abintus Coaching Resources

In my wide experiences of training coaches, this is the one area which initially causes confusion. I also experience some coaches who switch into ‘mentor mode’ in order to give advice. However once we spend time on it the clarity comes. The purpose of this resource is provide some simple insight into the two. I will keep it simple and my views on it. There are plenty of other authors who can give a deeper insight to this area…


Talking about training whilst talking about coaching and mentoring is important. It forms part of the learning continuum – training – coaching – mentoring. There is a ‘progression’ between them.

Training works on a premise of the attendee having little of no skills initially, or might be a need for refresher skills. The trainer is the expert, with the knowledge they ‘give’ to the attendees.

It is short term, they go, receive training, they leave. Therefore it is more transactional. There is no ongoing relationship between trainer and attendee.


Coaching is a shorter term intervention between coach and client. Typically there will be 3-6 sessions, each about 90 minutes long, over typically a 6 month spread.

It is client led, their situation, their goals, their ideas, their actions, their change. The coach facilitates the conversation through the use of questions, feedback, sharing experiences and using a range of communication and people tools. They don’t tell, direct or give answers.

Coaching typically is aimed upon improving the performance, behaviours, thinking and activities of the client. Tim Gallwey in his book ‘The Inner Game’ shares how it can be used to identify, develop and apply potential. It is also used to remove those interferences to performance – fear, poor confidence, inertia, change, relationships, politics, time / self management etc.

Coaching is commonly goal focused. The coach draws out of the client a specific facet they want to improve or change during their coaching sessions. They then uses their questions to explore this goal and get actions and outcomes which aim to reach this goal for the client.

Commonly the coach will use some kind of coaching model or frame the coaching conversation, leading to some actions for the client.

Coaches don’t need to be an expert in the client’s field. However, having an understanding of the client’s context is highly valuable. Some new coaches struggle coaching people they know as they can make lots of assumptions because of their pre-existing knowledge. The coach should be expert in communication, relationship and people skills in order to work well with their client. The coach may on occasion share their experiences (with the client’s permission), and see what value the client can take from these.

Finally, coaching is aims to be transformational for the client, not providing ‘patch fixes’ or trying to ‘fix’ the client.


A mentor will use similar approaches as the coach such as questioning, exploring, having a focal point and sharing experiences. They may also use similar coaching models.

A mentoring relationship can last for years if the relationship works for both parties. They might meet a few times a year.

Where coaching focuses on performance, mentoring is more aspirational based. It looks more around aspirations around roles, careers, future leadership and management desires. Mentoring might touch on the past but is primarily forward thinking in nature.

The key difference with mentoring is ‘experience’ (not confusing it with expertise). It is about the client wanting to tap into some kind of experience that the mentor possesses. Commonly including time spent in a role, their particular approach to leadership, how they went developed their career. The mentor will share their experiences more than a coach might. Mentors might also share their networks with their clients if appropriate. They will ask permission to share these experiences (where appropriate) then draw out from the client what these experiences mean for them, how they might be useful.

Again, mentoring is not about giving advice, guidance or direction.

Mentoring is growing in popularity in business – peer to peer mentoring, women in leadership, reverse mentoring, retirement mentoring…

Feedback is a fundamental within the coaches repertoire. To master it opens up the coach’s ability to develop their clients in a very personal and powerful way. It also enhances their communication skills and relationship development abilities.

The coach and the differences

So we now have hopefully some clear insight into the differences between coaching and mentoring.

When training new coaches they occasionally get into the habit of what they call, ‘going into mentoring mode’. This partly comes from not being fully clear on what mentoring is and the role of the mentor in it. Here they going into ‘mentoring mode’ and when they do they feel it is ok to offer guidance or advice to their client. Mentoring is mentoring it isn’t about guiding or giving advice. The mentor can seek permission to share their experiences and then explore these with the client. Or they can use questions to get the client to come to a realisation for themselves.

Coaches and mentors don’t need to be able to define their coaching and mentoring to clients. But more helpfully, they do need to explain how they both work and how they are different, so the client has internal clarity. The contracting phase of the relationship provides the opportunity to have a conversation with clients in this area and what it means for their expectations of the conversations ahead.

So, coaching and mentoring are different approaches and used in different contexts and purposes. Being able to clarify the differences with clients will enable more focused conversations to occur. It will also help in managing the clients expectations and prevent the client from asking for your guidance or input.