This question seems to come up a lot. What exactly is the difference between coaching and mentoring and when should you choose one over the other?

Rebecca Groves
Rebecca Groves
22nd August 2021

To help unpick this I spoke with executive coach Julia Whitney. She’s led our Leading Design retreats and runs our popular Group Executive Coaching Programmes so she was the perfect person to talk to.

Group sat in front of a glass wall of post-its talking
A group of design leaders at our Women in Design Leadership retreat at the Juvet Landscape Hotel in Norway

Julia explained that there is an important difference between coaching and mentoring. A trainer or mentor will often tell you what to do and how to do it. A coach, on the other hand, serves as your thinking partner.

Mentoring offers you the wisdom of someone else’s experience. But what worked for your mentor may not be right for you. Your context and set of colleagues is different, and so is your unique set of skills and strengths.

Coaching works with the belief that you are the expert on yourself and your context. Coaching supports you to develop approaches that work uniquely well for you. In the process you grow more and more confident of your own resourcefulness.

Coaching increases self-awareness, but also expands your repertoire of behaviours. You take concrete actions back into your workplace. Part of what makes it work so well is the accountability you feel to do the actions you committed to at the last session.

What experiences have you had with coaching and mentoring? What about either of them has worked particularly well for you? I’d love to know your thoughts. Please do get in touch.

If you would like to find out more about our coaching programme and get one of the final places in the September cohorts you can do that here.