Coaching and Mentoring

Coaching and Mentoring

Coaching and mentoring share some common features and the terms are often used interchangeably. This may be because both take place on a 1:1 basis, with a view to helping people to develop knowledge and skills. They both involve defining goals and outcomes, careful questioning and considerate listening to explore issues and aims. Goals may be similar, focusing on professional growth, career development, reaching specific short or long-term objectives.

Both coaching and mentoring arrangements may involve drawing up a formal agreement regarding the number and frequency of sessions, timeframes and record keeping, although 'contracting' is more commonly the domain of formal coaching with an internal or external coach.

Benefits of Coaching and Mentoring

Coaching and mentoring have been perceived as a benefit to the individual but they also have significant value to the organisation. At their core, coaching and mentoring are about awareness and responsibility. Staff who accept awareness and responsibility are better focused to deliver. Staff who are focused on objectives, linked to the appraisal system and aligned to the organisational strategy can learn better, manage relationships better, be improved team members and deliver enhanced performance.

Coaching and mentoring can also release the potential for innovation and agility needed in today’s rapidly changing environment. Increased adaptation and responsiveness can be established through coaching and mentoring. In essence, coaching and mentoring develop talent and capability by strengthening the resources of both staff and the organisation.

What are the differences between coaching and mentoring?

The following table describes the difference between Coaching and Mentoring. Further reading on this topic can also be found on UCL's Your Development Toolkit website.


Coaching Mentoring
Coaches need not have first-hand experience of the coachee's line of work. The coach can be an independent external professional with expertise in coaching, or a qualified UCL internal coach.        Mentoring is customarily a planned pairing of a more skilled or experienced person (usually in the same field of work) with a less experienced person.
Line managers can use coaching techniques successfully in the management and development of team members. Ideally mentors have no line management relationship to the mentee.
Coaches will ask 'powerful' questions and not offer or give advice.. Mentors will often provide direction and advice and should 'open organisational doors' for mentees.
A number of both internal and external coaches are available with a variety of backgrounds and expertise and the services they provide tie in with the organisation’s objectives. Mentors can provide a neutral 'sounding board', assure total confidentiality, and have no agenda other than assisting their mentees in their development and to reach their goals.
Effective coaching is intended to help you to learn rather than by “teaching” you.  By engaging with an experienced coach, the coachee will develop insights leading to enhanced effectiveness. Mentoring involves helping mentees to develop their career, skills and expertise often drawing upon the experiences of the mentor in the process.

Internal Coaches

External Coaches