Coach or Mentor: Which Do You Need?

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Do I need a coach or a mentor? It's a very common question. Many consider the two to be interchangeable. Though the differences are subtle, they're meaningful.

So what are the key differences? Here are three that we believe are the most important.


1. Orientation 

Coaching is extremely task oriented. With coaching, the focus is on addressing direct issues and challenges. The coach must be an expert in the field and have the experience required to guide you. The coaches job is to provide you with clarity and accountability. They should help you to understand what is required and guide you as you determine the tasks required to achieve your objectives.

Mentoring is about the relationship. A mentor provides you with an environment where you can safely share whatever issues are affecting your professional and/or personal success. Though specific learning and/or development may be part of the mix, the focus often goes far beyond a simple skill development.


2. Timing

Coaching is usually short-term. Coaches can often have a major impact even if used for a brief time period. Though typically short-term, a coach can be engaged for longer periods if the issue or challenges are complex. In short, a coach is typically used only for as long as they are needed.

Mentoring is a long-term commitment. In order for mentoring to be successful, it requires a long-term commitment. The mentor and mentee need time to build trust and create an environment that nurtures success. The work done is often not quick and usually is broad in scope.


3. Focus

Coaching is performance driven. Coaching is all about improving the coachee's performance. Typically this involves enhancing or developing key skills necessary for their job. Once the coachee successfully acquires or refines these skills, often the coach is no longer required.

Mentoring is about development. Mentorship focuses on developing the mentee not only for their current job, but also for their future roles. Having a mentor is about developing your abilities for the future and requires a long-term commitment to achieve it.


Do I need a Coach?

So what are the signs that you should be considering working with a coach?

  1. When you need to learn a new skill quickly to achieve your objectives and deliver results.

  2. When no matter how hard you're working, you're still missing the mark and not meeting expectations.

  3. When you want to develop or refine specific competencies that you need to be successful in your role.


Are you a CSM looking to develop your skills or refine existing ones?

Check out our CSM Coaching program, it offers the most comprehensive combination of skill development and coaching available.

About the Author

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Todd Eby

Todd Eby is the Co-Founder of SuccessHACKER. He's an acknowledged expert on the building and scaling of Customer Success programs and teams. He utilizes his 20+ years of experience to promote one simple truth; successful customers = successful business. His innovative approach to Customer Success has made him one of the most recognized thought leaders and influencers in the industry.