In what is coaching we explored what coaching is, along with some definitions. To build on this we now look at the differences between coaching, training and mentoring.

It's important to know this, so you can be a better coach, trainer and mentor.

The differences between coaching and training

Here's a useful comparison to explain the differences between training and coaching.


Putting in

Planting the seed

Pass on knowledge & skills

Often a one off



Gives the answer


Outside in


Pulling out

Encourage growth

Facilitating sSelf learning



May have no knowledgeNon-Expert

Solicits the answer


Inside out











If we take the highlights from these two sets of points, we can summarise the key differences as:

  • Trainer leads and provides the answer
  • Coach, they drill down to find the Coachee's answers

The differences between coaching and mentoring

It's just as important to understand the difference between Coaching and Mentoring, as it is Training and Coaching. My favourite definitions are as follows:

A mentor is a trusted advisor
Mentoring is a form of employee development whereby a trusted and respected person “the mentor” uses their experience to offer guidance, encouragement, career advice, and support to another person “the mentee”. The aim of mentoring is to facilitate the mentee's learning and development and to enable them to discover more about their potential. Mentoring can occur informally or it can be arranged by means of an organisational program.

So when it comes to mentoring, the Mentor will provide solutions and guidance. Advising the mentee what they should do from their experience, to handle or approach a task. They will be experienced in the task or role they are mentoring on, and in some cases will be seen as an expert and role model.

Where the Mentor is trusted and has credibility, this clearly will be well received. The challenge is where there is little or no credibility, between Mentor and Mentee. I can give someone the answer however, if I have little respect or experience, my answer may count for jot!

In our opinion, a Mentor should use a coaching style when working through a challenge with a Mentee. Using coaching questions first, to draw out what the mentee is considering, before provide answers.

There is almost a 'rights of passage' to becoming a Mentor. First you need to understand the differences between training, coaching and mentoring. Second you need to be adept in all three. We represent this 'rights of passage' with our hierarchy diagram. Working up to being a mentor.

trianagle with training, coaching and mentoring


In comparing the differences between Coaching, Training and Mentoring, I have it clear in my mind that at times I coach, train and mentor, depending on the scenario and the individual. I do this with control, choosing the most appropriate style.

The following proverb sums up to me what being a Coach is all about, and I like to use it to compare the differences.

Give someone a fish, they feed today. Teach them how to fish, they feed for a lifetime

As a trainer, coach, manager, and most importantly a dad. I know at times, my delegates, coachees, colleagues and sons, need an answer from me. They want feeding! I guess in some respects it's because I am perceived as having the answer!

The key is knowing what method works best. But that is just the start, we have to also demonstrate this, and sometimes we most need to hold off from answering, when we least feel like it!

My challenge to you is are you really coaching, or are you telling/training? Which of the 3 types of coach are you?

About the author

phil laviolettephil laviolette

Hi!, I'm Phil LaViolette, Founder and Owner of evalu8d. I created resourcily to share hints, tips and resources I've collected over 20 years of training and coaching, across lots of industries and at all levels. I hope that, even in a small way, you gain from the tools I share!