The Difference Between Executive Coaching
and Executive Mentoring

Executive coaching and executive mentoring . . .

. . . both involve a one-on-one relationship between you and a trusted advisor in a setting of confidentiality, personal development, and collegial respect. Commonly the same person may serve as your coach and mentor.

As a result, what many companies call "coaching," others call "mentoring." Even some coaches use the terms interchangeably. Still, coaching and mentoring are each distinctive approaches to executive and leadership development.

Your Executive Coach

An executive coach in a coaching session with a clientExecutive coaches equip you to deal more confidently and competently with critical near-term issues. They help you perfect leadership and management skills that have lasting, immediate impact. Coaching frequently focuses on needs identified in a 360-degree review conducted by the coach, your company, or an external consultant.

Executive coaches also provide inspiration, encouragement, and motivation. And they prod you to stay on track with your most vital priorities and objectives.

Executive coaching centers on outcomes that can be attained in a relatively short period (usually three to six months). As you achieve those outcomes, you may choose to extend the coaching relationship by identifying other areas where executive coaching would benefit you.

With its focus on discrete, near-term goals, executive coaching is structured to achieve optimal results in a minimum amount of time. Coaching sessions (by phone or in person) occur weekly or bi-weekly, typically lasting from 30 to 90 minutes. More intensive schedules can also be accommodated, including two and three hour sessions or day-long "shadowing" by a coach.

Your Executive Mentor

An executive mentor in a mentoring session with a clientBy contrast, executive mentoring is generally

  • less structured
  • longer running
  • broader in scope
  • and pursues a more open-ended agenda

Executive mentoring often deals with the broader backdrop of your life and career. Executive mentors may help you work toward goals that are both immediate and long-range, including goals that stretch well into the future. If we think of executive coaching as imparting skills, executive mentoring is focused on  imparting wisdom in using your skills.

Executive mentors deal with such issues as

  • career satisfaction
  • professional development
  • critical life transitions
  • personal growth
  • creating executive presence
  • preparing for your next promotion
  • becoming comfortable in a new role
  • keeping life in balance
  • navigating corporate politics
  • gaining greater mastery of your leadership and management function

Mentors frequently double as executive coaches. They also serve as confidants, sounding boards, supportive listeners, guides, and tutors. Compared to an executive coach, your mentor may meet with you less frequently. But mentoring sessions are normally longer and more far-ranging than coaching sessions.

Because its scope is considerably broader than executive coaching, a mentoring relationship typically lasts at least nine or ten months. Sometimes they last as long as two or three years. Moreover, once a formal mentoring relationship runs its course, many people choose to have occasional "check-up" visits with their mentor for years to come.

For more on the unique role of executive coaching, go to