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Mentoring & coaching. What's the difference?

Written by Gary Jaffer on 20/03/2014 12:58:00 PM 0 Comment


We have all heard the advice ‘work ON your business not IN your business’, and quite frankly, it’s much easier said than done.  It’s so easy to be caught in the day-to-day stuff that without some real discipline it just becomes almost impossible to achieve working ON the business.  So should you consider looking for a mentor, coach or business counsellor, what’s the difference between them and how can this fix your culture?

I’ve worked both in the corporate sector and for myself and in both scenarios always found it incredibly difficult to find time to spend ON the business. Over the years, I have always been a little envious of those people I knew who had a mentor, someone with whom they could turn to and bounce a few things around.  For me, finding someone who would just listen without necessarily having to comment was a great boon.

I wish I could provide a definitive answer to the question of what is the difference between a mentor, coach and business counsellor as it does seem to depend on where you look for the answer, so I figure the easiest thing is to give you my definitions and you can make up your mind yourself. Often I find myself in all three roles in one meeting depending on the client. 

I see a mentor as someone who has a good working knowledge of the business or industry you are in; they have been around the traps for a while and understand the nuances of the way your business works. 

On the other hand, a coach does not necessarily need to have expertise in your particular business or industry area, for that matter a business background at all, especially if you are looking to a coach to initiate personal change. 

Someone who counsels in business will need to have a solid background in business and preferably a fairly broad one so that the advice and direction you are given isn’t lopsided.

Engaging a mentor, coach or business counselor is ideal for a sole trader or small business owner, as all significant decisions are made by that one person.  However, once an organisation has grown to the extent and has sufficient employees where the decision processes are delegated to managers and team leaders then there is a need for the development of a coaching or mentoring culture within the organisation. 

Introducing culture…
Now the moment we start to talk about culture we enter into a very varied area.  Culture is generally a product of “the way we do things around here”.  So if coaching and mentoring are part of “the way we do things” then all is well.  What happens in many organisations however is that people are often instructed to do whatever it is that is required. 

A coaching and mentoring culture is more about growing individuals rather than teaching them to follow instructions. The core belief behind all the coaching, mentoring and even business counsel, is that the individual, really does know what is required, but may not believe that or recognise it.  Therefore my job is to listen and ask enough questions to literally “tease out” the answers.  Two things then happen, firstly the individual realises their own ability, secondly this allows the individual to grow and become a contributor of significance to the business.

The next step is to then teach them how to coach and mentor their own staff by listening, asking questions and entering into intelligent discussion. The major rub off of this sort of internal dialogue is that it creates a sense of a great place to work, a culture and we all know that culture will eat strategy for breakfast.  Regardless of the size of your organisation it is worth considering using an outside coach, mentor or business counselor to work with you in a way that will help you build a coaching culture.  Almost all good business coaches and mentors want to see their work duplicated within an organisation – for many of them, doing themselves out of a job is the best thing that can happen, it proves their worth every time.

Find a business coach or mentor in your area using the Bartercard member’s directory. This will help you to drive strategy and improve culture.

Gary Jaffer
Founder & Principal Consultant
0407 530 953

Gary coaches, mentors and provides business counsel to individuals and businesses throughout Australia.  He is an accomplished facilitator and engaging speaker and is available for conferences, away days and internal training sessions.


Topics: The difference between mentors and coaches, Company culture

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