July 31, 2021 5 min read

Executive coaching vs mentoring - which of these is right for you and your team?

You already know your people are your most valuable resource - which is why you want to invest in them and help them grow.

But should you go with an executive coach or a mentor? What are the differences between mentoring and coaching?

You have questions - and we have the answers. While some people will tell you mentoring is better, and others will tell you coaching is superior - we're here to tell you that it really depends on what you're looking to get out of the relationship.

In the following paragraphs, we're going to break down the difference between coaching and mentoring and help you understand which of these makes sense for you and your organization.

What Exactly Is Executive Coaching?

We'll start by discussing executive coaching - because spoiler alert - we believe it is more advantageous for businesses from a pure ROI standpoint.

This type of coaching relationship is a great investment for any business whose executives are going through change.

If you've just promoted someone to management - or one of your existing leaders has taken on an elevated role and has more responsibilities to juggle, coaching is an excellent choice.

With executive coaching, the individual and coach work together to improve performance through a combination of methodologies. These include but are not limited to:

  • Creating goals & developing a roadmap to attain them
  • Assessing talents and weaknesses to find areas to develop & strengths to highlight
  • Building critical leadership skills like awareness, communication, delegation, etc.
  • Regularly assessing the performance and progress towards metric-based goals

The big takeaway from executive coaching is that its results-driven and focuses on organization efficiency and workplace performance.

What Exactly Is Mentoring?

Now, let's look at the other side of the coin - mentorship.

This is a bit different from an executive coach in a few ways - mainly in that mentoring is far more informal, has no set relationship, and focuses far more on career growth and personal development.

With mentorship, knowledge is simply passed down from mentor to mentee - with no real rhyme or reason for the most part.

You can probably already start to draw your own conclusions, but now that we've discussed both, let's see how they weigh up next to each other.

What Is The Difference Between Coaching And Mentoring?

When it comes to your top executives, you want to get them the best resources and help possible. After all, the better they are - the better their team will be. And thus - your business will improve!

So, let's take a look at the key differences between coaching and mentoring.

Differences In The Coaching And Mentoring Relationships

There are quite a few differences between coaches and mentors, but they all mainly stem from the difference in the relationship. Let us explain.

Coaching is something you'll pay an outside party to come in and conduct. It's a service provided by someone who specializes in coaching - and helping executives attain goals and fine-tune their processes and skills.

Because of this, you'll find that coaching is far more formal - we'll discuss this more in-depth throughout the following sections.

Mentorship, on the other hand, is usually something you'll get from someone who has simply taken a liking to you - and wants to help you progress up the social or corporate ladder.

In some cases, a mentor may be a higher-up from your company - and they'll be assigned to you from the CEO or owner in an effort to help you grow with the company.

Other times, a mentor may not be related to your job or profession at all - they may not even be from the same industry. They're just someone who's achieved some sort of professional goal that you want to achieve - and they're willing to share their wisdom so you can attempt to replicate it.

Meeting Frequency & Relationship Formality

The main difference you'll see right off the bat is the level of formality. Mentorship may have no set meeting times - you may just hit up your mentor for coffee or lunch every so often to catch up.

Coaching, on the other hand, has set meeting times on a monthly basis with a predetermined agenda for the most part - to review performance and assess progress towards goals.

From there, the meeting transitions into discussing the next steps, and how the coach can help you get there. With your coach, you'll typically have a set duration you plan on working together - anywhere from 3-12 months is standard.

With a mentor, though, you don't necessarily put a timeline on your relationship because it's so informal. Your mentor will be there indefinitely to help you navigate any new journey you embark on.

How You Measure Results From Mentoring And Coaching

Now comes the biggest difference between coaches and mentors - how you evaluate progress and determine whether you're on the right track or not.

As you can now tell, the mentoring and coaching relationships are very different in terms of formality. As such, you may not spend much time evaluating results with your mentor - but this is not the case at all as it comes to your coaching relationship.

In fact, one of the biggest roles of an executive coach is helping you and your team analyze data and comparing it to benchmarks to determine if you're getting the results you hoped for or not.

Say you brought an executive coach to help decrease turnover in your call center. If 6 months down the road you find that employee retention has gone up, great! If not, though, then the coach will be a key part in helping you find out why and coming up with pivots and next steps to get there.

Which Is Better For You - Executive Coaching Or Mentorship?

While these terms do get used interchangeably in some instances, they are very different and should not be confused as the same - as you now know.

While a great executive coach may offer some degree of mentorship just in your conversation with them, a mentor is not an executive coach.

If you're an individual looking to progress your career and reach certain personal development goals - mentorship may be perfect for you!

Finding a great mentor isn't easy, since it's typically an unpaid relationship that really only benefits the mentee. It's typically done out of goodwill and isn't necessarily the best approach for businesses.

However, if you're a business or executive looking to increase performance in the workplace - executive coaching is the right approach.

You'll have set goals, milestones, and metrics and your coach will help you get there. Because you're paying them, these expectations need to be set from the start and the coaching relationship is very formal.

Which one of these gets better results - coaching or mentoring? If you're looking to get tangible results in a certain area of your business, then go with the results-based practice of executive coaching.

Find The Right Executive Coach For You & Your Organization

While great mentors are hard to find, quality coaches are just as scarce. You need a coach who has a proven track record of delivering results in a wide range of industries - and that's what Harold Hillman and the Sigmoid Curve team possess.

With decades of experience interacting with senior leaders at the top companies around the world, we've been able to enact meaningful change and help them meet their goals.

If you are looking for an executive coach who can help your best managers get even better at what they do - backed by real, tangible results - reach out about our executive coaching program.

We have the results and testimonials to back up everything we say, so reach out today and find out for yourself what makes us different from the traditional coach!

Harold Hillman
Harold Hillman



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