Coaching and Mentoring Resources

The CUIMC HR Talent Management team offers a variety of resources to support the professional development of CUIMC employees. Coaching and mentoring represent two of the more powerful tools that can be used to accelerate learning and increase workplace effectiveness. This page describes coaching and mentoring, and offers guidance on which one should be used based on individual needs. It also provides links to our formal Coaching Services and to Informal Mentoring How-To’s


The Similarities & Differences Between Coaching and Mentoring

Comparing coaching and mentoring can be challenging because there are no universally agreed upon definitions of either one. Indeed, the definitions of coaching and mentoring can vary greatly depending on the context in which each approach is used. However, there are some generally accepted similarities among these approaches. Along those lines, it is safe to say that both coaching and mentoring are forms of helping in which the coach/mentor serves as a “helper” and the coachee/mentee is a “learner. In specific contexts, this may involve:

  • Goals set by learner or for the learner
  • Addressing broad personal growth ambitions 
  • A relatively directive or non-directive helper
  • Use of the helper’s experience
  • The helper asking questions to prompt the learner to explore their own solutions
  • The helper giving advice 
  • Long or short duration

Differentiating coaching and mentoring is much harder. One of the best ways to distinguish between the two comes from David Clutterbuck, a thought leader in the field of coaching. In his words,

“If there is a generic difference (please note the if), it is that coaching in most applications addresses performance in some aspect of an individual’s work or life; while mentoring is more often associated with much broader, holistic development and with career progress.”


Types of Coaching and Mentoring

It is also important to distinguish between different types of coaching relationships and different types of mentoring relationships. In broad terms, coaching and mentoring relationships can be either formal or informal. 


  • Formal
    An employee contracts with an internal or external coach to achieve a goal.  The coach does not work in the same team/department as the employee and provides an outsider perspective.  Coaches often use assessment tools to guide the conversation and development goals.
  • Informal
    A manager or coach may provide on-the-spot coaching to an employee to support skill development or correct mistakes.  There is no formal contract.  


  • Formal
    An employee participates in an organizationally structured program that facilitates matching of mentors and mentees based on professional interests and career/life possibilities, specifies mutually agreed upon goals, and sets a duration and expectations for the relationship.
  • Informal
    An employee establishes a mentoring relationship with someone with skills in an area the learner seeks.  Organizationally provided tools are available for support and guidance.


Guidance on Whether to Use a Coach or Mentor 

Now that you have a better understanding of coaching and mentoring, it is important to consider whether you want to work with a coach or a mentor, or both.  It all depends on what you need.  Below are lists of common reasons to seek a coach or a mentor. 

When to Use a Coach

  • Develop a specific new skill or competency (e.g., public speaking, driving results, etc.)
  • Boost performance in a current role (e.g., leading change, giving effective feedback, etc.)
  • Address performance problems in a current role (e.g., addressing performance issues, etc.)
  • Resolve a specific leadership challenge or situation (e.g., managing a disagreement, etc.)
  • Focus on leadership development (e.g., increasing flexibility, driving engagement, etc.)
  • Prepare for a role transition (e.g., preparing for first 90 days and beyond, etc.)

When to Use a Mentor

  • Need to think more expansively about career/life possibilities
  • Interested in gaining knowledge from a skilled professional
  • Seeking insights about internal dynamics
  • Looking for an individual who can facilitate introductions and increase your visibility within an organization


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