Do I need a coach, a mentor or both?

By David Pasieka

I had a young CEO approach me the other day with a question that had been puzzling for her for some time.

“What is the difference between a Coach and a Mentor? Could I benefit from having Both?”

As I promote my ability to be the Entrepreneur’s Entrepreneur providing both Coaching and Mentoring services, ( I felt compelled to respond.

can historically be linked back to the Trojan War when Odysseus, the King of Ithaca entrusted his kingdom and the care of his son to Mentor. A common definition would include words such as : “trusted, wise, counselor, guide, teacher, role model, resource, support mechanism or sounding board”. Mentors are usually self selected by the individual and the relationship is built on a solid foundation of chemistry and trust. The focus of the Mentor’s program is all about the individual and will be dynamic and fluid depending on the client’s changing needs.

A key trait of a Mentor’s work is that the Mentee may choose to be selective of the advice they choose to heed. Mentors will Facilitate, Question, Listen, Challenge, Build and Inspire but for the most part, allow the Mentee to find their “own path through the forest“. Much of my work as a Mentor is personally enriching – there is not a session that I have with a Mentee where I didn’t add to my long list of key learnings.

Coaches on the other hand are established to: “instruct, direct and teach individuals or teams to improve in a sport, skill or subject“. Coaches are usually focused on performance improvement and follow a very specific and regimented program agenda. (When was the last time your hockey coach asked what does the team want to work on today?) Unlike a One on One Mentor program, a Coach could be working on an individual or team basis. Coaches bring both a perceived and real sense of authority or power to the relationship. Ultimately, the Coach is driving “compliance” to the advice and instruction. Results are clearly measured and linked back to the Coaching agenda.

In response to the Headline question it’s probably both. On the personal level, many would suggest that having a wise Mentor would be one of the most valuable career assets a leader could have. Coaches will also be critical in ensuring that individual and team performance levels are consistently challenged and achieved.

David Pasieka is the Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the Altitude Accelerator. Learn more here. Visit Our Contributors page for more information about David. Read his blog at

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