The Difference Between a Mentor and Coach (And Why You Need Them)

I shared this via the vlog and I wanted to capture it here and expand on it a big via the written (digital) word and give you a breakdown of the differences between a coach and a mentor and how I engage with both.

On the back-half of yesterday’s vlog I talked about how crucial it is that you have a coach (or coaches) and a mentor (or mentors) in your life:

First-off, I want to be explicit: There is a very clear and distinct difference between a mentor and a coach, both of which I have.

A mentor is one who invests in you with their time, their feedback, and their empathetic and listening ear. They are not financially-bound (i.e. there is not money that exchanges hands) and they are in this relationship because they fundamentally believe that they can provide unique value into your life.

In many ways, for whatever reason, they just believe in you and have made the incredible decision to invest their most precious and limited resource to you. It’s miraculous if you think about it. It’s a literal miracle on earth.

A coach, on the other hand, is financially tied to you. You have contracted them to invest in an area of your life (or project or a business) to help you go further, faster. The expressed intent is for gross advancement in a specific direction over a certain amount of time.

Now, you’ll encounter a spectrum of thought on the differences and people even like to combine the two elements into the same thing, like a “Life Coach” – I generally hate that term, by the way.

Functionally, both the mentor and the coach may provide the exact same “service” but the motive and the financial undercarriage is the distinction.

This is also how I engage with those that I mentor and professionally coach and I make this distinction clear. I will, at times, provide pro bono professional coaching services but I make that clear by creating a time-table around the engagement.

For instance, I tell someone that I will spend the next 90 days with them, meeting once a month, to help them achieve X, Y, or Z goal or to accelerate this particular part of their professional career.

Mentorship, though, is something that I choose. I choose a few folks to invest in and there is no stop or start date. We are either actively and regularly have a calendar date to meet or we don’t and it’s a fluid and dynamic relationship and one that I deeply enjoy.

Finally, another key distinction is access. As a coach, my time is calculated and paid for, so, any engagement costs money. Limiting access is a by-product of this paradigm because I will start billing the crap out of you if you ping me during the day. I’m fine with that, but, the person or organization receiving the coaching will get a bill at the end of the day.

As a mentor, my access is unlimited. If it’s 3:00am and they need someone to chat with… I’m available (if I’m awake, of course). If they ping me, DM me, or want to call me on the phone… I’ll make myself available. This is why I can only do so many at a time. It can get exhausting, but, it’s very, very rewarding.

Finally, I have to reiterate what I shared on the vlog… YOU NEED A COACH. YOU NEED A MENTOR. You need both, to be honest. You cannot expect to be a high-performer and feel as if you can do it alone.

The best performers have mentors and coaches. The most successful people on the planet have mentors and coaches. There are no professional athletes or teams without coaches. What makes you so different and/or special?

If you want to live a mediocre life then go it alone… just don’t complain about it, that’s all I ask. If that’s not good enough, well… then you know what you need to do.

Make this a top-line priority. This is not a joke. Make this the #1 priority on your list of things to do.

You know why this makes strategic sense? Because the moment you have one that person will deftly rearrange the rest of your priorities because they will be able to tell you (and you will have invited them to tell you) that you’re way off target.

Your list of priorities, after that first one, will tactically change (and for the better). That’s what a great mentor and coach can do for you. They can tell you you’re wrong and you’ll love it.