What’s the Difference Between a Coach and Mentor

mentor or coach - Know You More

Had to share this great guest blog from our LibertySpace clients Know You More, which raises some excellent points. Clarifies why coaching and mentoring differ,and why you might need one more than the other.


In the last year, we’ve delivered nearly 400 hours of professional coaching to young adults that are either early in their career, starting an enterprise or making a difference in their community.

The concept of coaching is new to them and sometimes also to those that are creating the learning opportunity on their behalf. A similar developmental relationship is mentoring. It is probably more commonly known when it comes to supporting young adults. One of the questions we get asked most frequently is:

‘What is the difference between a coach and a mentor?’

It is using this method that we’ve learned to explain it.

To understand the difference, it first helps to know what they have in common

To show you how this works, let’s do this with another duo that likes to make a difference in the world – Superman and Batman.

Superman and Batman – what do they have in common?

– They both love a tight outfit.

– Have a terrible time with relationships.

– Tragic family losses surround them.

– Want to save the world from the baddies.

At that level, they sound very similar. A copy and paste using different costume designers.

In understanding what sets one caped crusader from the other, you have to look at how they do it.

Batman is human, has his billion-dollar company funding his awesome dungeon of tools. He prefers to fight in the dark and is a symbol that strikes fear into the underworld.

Superman is an alien with superpowers. Shows up at any time as long as there is a phone box in the vicinity of trouble. He flies, shoots lasers from his eyes and benefits from a gusty menthol ice breath.

They are now quite different.

This ‘what’ and ‘how’ approach also works well for a coach and a mentor.

So what do these superheroes have in common?

– They work 1-2-1 and rely on good chemistry

– They’re invested and committed to you

– The goal is to move you forward from where you are

– A framework supports the relationship

– Their practice is aligned with professional standards and ethics

– Accountability & ownerships always lies with the individual

Now how do they do it?


– There is no need for the coach to have experience in the field of the ‘coachee’.

– A coach will have had specific training to become acknowledged as a coach.

– The conversation is non-directive. Answers and options emerge solely through the thinking of the coachee.

– The relationship is often short term.


– It is normal for relevant background & experience to be important when matching a mentor and a mentee.

– The conversation is more directive.

– The mentor draws upon their knowledge and experience to answer and provide guidance.

– A mentoring relationship doesn’t tend to have time limitations.

Is it better to have a coach or a mentor?

You might have already seen this answer coming.

It’s a bit like asking is it better to have Superman or Batman fighting the baddies?

In an ideal world, you would have both. In certain scenarios, you need both.

Starting a business is one of them.

The coach to develop your mindset. The mentor to provide with business acumen.

Youth or career development is another.

This collaborative framework recommends that young people have access to a Tutor, Coach, Mentor & Counsellor.

That’s great, but if the Joker has me tied up and tells me to phone a super friend… who should I choose?

When you’re scrolling through your contact list, think about two things.

What you need/want to achieve and how you want to experience it?

In this instance, you want to achieve not being held captive by a supervillain.

Should you want to design and execute your very own clever plan to escape his evil clutches – go to C for Coach.

If it’s guidance on how to best send him into a monologue, distract him and sneakily cut through the knots – Mentor it is.

The European Mentoring & Coaching Council (EMCC) are not a Marvel or DC franchise. They do have excellent information on resources mentoring and coaching.

Local, flexible and affordable work spaces.

Whatever you need, Liberty can help you concentrate on the stuff that matters; building your brand and maximising your profits.