Review: Coaching & Mentoring, practical methods to improve learning

Wearing my Coaching & Mentoring Network hat I take great care to uphold our philosophy of providing objective information that helps our clients and site visitors to make their own informed choices without being swayed by our opinions.

But I have to confess that I’ve deviated somewhat from this in the book department! For the last year or so I have often found myself directing people (non-directively of course) to Eric Parsloe and Monika Wray’s book 'Coaching & Mentoring, practical methods to improve learning'. Perhaps that’s why it’s the bestseller in the Coaching & Mentoring Network on-line bookshop!

So, here I will attempt to explain who I believe the book is aimed at and what this reader can expect to learn from it.

Firstly it’s clear Eric and Monika are passionate about helping people learn. It’s not surprising then that the book focuses on the practical – on breaking things down into simple accessible components, rather than creating ivory towers and black arts. This is, in my view, why the book 'works'.

One could argue that much of the content is repackaging of old, familiar models and there is some truth in this. There’s nothing new about SMART for instance. However, here lies its strength.

Many people exploring coaching and mentoring for the first time are confused. They feel sure that their experience as a line manager or trainer or consultant or therapist must be relevant to coaching but don’t know how to assess this nor how to 'adapt' to be a coach.

This book establishes some definitions and contexts for coaching and mentoring, sets familiar models into a coaching / mentoring framework and supports the reader in assessing and developing specific skills.

So, how would I summarise the strengths of this book?

  • It defines self-managed learning – and offers an insight into how this works in practice.
  • If you want rocket science or in-depth advanced ‘pushing the boundaries’ stuff buy another book - where this book excels is in making the topic familiar even to the inexperienced.
  • The chapters on ‘Feedback that builds confidence and success’, ‘Observant listening’ and ‘Asking the right question’ should be prescribed reading for all managers and anyone who ever works in a team! They are simple, practical and easy to follow.
  • In this age of soundbites, it’s appropriate that the book is structured into a series of largely self-contained chapters, each divided by sub-headings into short chunks of text, often supported by diagrams. This makes it excellent for the speed-reader or ‘quick dipper’.
  • Encouraging the reader to walk the coaching talk, the practical chapters contain a checklist or 'Performance Criteria' assessment questionnaire – ideal for the self-managed learner!
  • The authors widely quote fellow writers in the field, including John Whitmore, Tim Gallwey, David Clutterbuck, David Megginson and Myles Downey to name a few. In so doing, they provide a quick introduction to some of the most popular theories and models that influence coaching and mentoring. For those that want to delve further, the chapter on 'Suggested Additional Learning Options and References' points the reader in a number of interesting directions.
  • Similarly, the book is peppered with case studies and comments from real people in real companies, marrying the 'theory' to practical experience.
  • Finally, the authors bring together some pearls of wisdom in the form of the 'Seven Laws of Self-Managed Personal Development' and the 'Seven Golden Rules of Simplicity' which should leave the reader feeling ready to move beyond the book rather than lost without another chapter.

No book can be all things to all people, but 'Coaching & Mentoring' offers a practical and well-rounded framework that supports coaches in developing core coaching and mentoring skills.

Anna Britnor Guest

Anna Britnor Guest is co-founder and director of The Coaching & Mentoring Network and coaching and mentoring specialist Leading Edge Coaching. She writes regularly on coaching and mentoring for a variety of journals and can be contacted at or +44 (0)870 733 3313.