Everything you ever wanted to know about coaching and
mentoring, and quite a lot that you probably didn't
What are Coaching and Mentoring?
Both coaching and mentoring are processes that enable both
individual and corporate clients to achieve their full
Coaching and mentoring share many similarities so it makes sense
to outline the common things coaches and mentors do whether the
services are offered in a paid (professional) or unpaid
- Facilitate the exploration of needs, motivations, desires,
skills and thought processes to assist the individual in making
real, lasting change.
- Use questioning techniques to facilitate client's own thought
processes in order to identify solutions and actions rather than
takes a wholly directive approach
- Support the client in setting appropriate goals and methods of
assessing progress in relation to these goals
- Observe, listen and ask questions to understand the client's
- Creatively apply tools and techniques which may include
one-to-one training, facilitating, counselling &
- Encourage a commitment to action and the development of lasting
personal growth & change.
- Maintain unconditional positive regard for the client, which
means that the coach is at all times supportive and non-judgemental
of the client, their views, lifestyle and aspirations.
- Ensure that clients develop personal competencies and do not
develop unhealthy dependencies on the coaching or mentoring
- Evaluate the outcomes of the process, using objective measures
wherever possible to ensure the relationship is successful and the
client is achieving their personal goals.
- Encourage clients to continually improve competencies and to
develop new developmental alliances where necessary to achieve
- Work within their area of personal competence.
- Possess qualifications and experience in the areas that
skills-transfer coaching is offered.
- Manage the relationship to ensure the client receives the
appropriate level of service and that programmes are neither too
short, nor too long.
The common thread uniting all types of coaching & mentoring
is that these services offer a vehicle for analysis, reflection and
action that ultimately enable the client to achieve success in one
more areas of their life or work.
Here are some published definitions we particularly like...
"a process that enables learning and development to occur and
thus performance to improve. To be a successful a Coach requires a
knowledge and understanding of process as well as the variety of
styles, skills and techniques that are appropriate to the context
in which the coaching takes place"
Eric Parsloe, The
Manager as Coach and Mentor (1999) page 8. Eric is a
respected author and Director of the OCM
"off-line help by one person to another in making significant
transitions in knowledge, work or thinking"
Clutterbuck, D & Megginson, D, Mentoring Executives
and Directors (1999) page 3 (available in the bookshop).
David Clutterbuck & David Megginson are both founder members
European Mentoring and Coaching Council and highly respected
authors, academics and consultants in the mentoring arena.
The difference between coaching and mentoring
As can be seen above, there are many similarities between
coaching and mentoring! Mentoring, particularly in its traditional
sense, enables an individual to follow in the path of an older and
wiser colleague who can pass on knowledge, experience and open
doors to otherwise out-of-reach opportunities. Coaching on the
other hand is not generally performed on the basis that the coach
has direct experience of their client's formal occupational role
unless the coaching is specific and skills focused.
Having said this, there are professionals offering their
services under the name of mentoring who have no direct experience
of their clients' roles and others offering services under the name
of coaching who do. So the moral of the story is, it is essential
to determine what your needs are and to ensure that the coach or
mentor can supply you with the type and level of service you
require, whatever that service is called.
See also Finding the right service
Business coaching & mentoring
Organisational development, changes brought about by mergers and
acquisitions as well as the need to provide key employees with
support through a change of role or career are often catalysts,
which inspire companies to seek coaching or mentoring.
At one time coaching and mentoring were reserved for senior
managers and company directors, now it is available to all as a
professional or personal development tool. Coaching and mentoring
are also closely linked with organisational change initiatives in
order to help staff to accept and adapt to changes in a manner
consistent with their personal values and goals.
Coaching & mentoring, both of which focus on the individual,
can enhance morale, motivation and productivity and reduce staff
turnover as individuals feel valued and connected with both small
and large organisational changes. This role may be provided by
internal coaches or mentors and, increasingly, by professional
Coaching and mentoring programmes generally prove to be popular
amongst employees as coaching achieves a balance between fulfilling
organisational goals and objectives whilst taking into account the
personal development needs of individual employees. It is a two-way
relationship with both the organisation and the employee gaining
There is also an increasing trend for individuals to take
greater responsibility for their personal & professional
development and even those who are employed in large organisations
are no longer relying on employers to provide them with all or
their career development needs. There has been an increase in the
number of individuals contracting coaches and mentors on a private
basis. Some are looking for a career change, but many are also
seeking to maximise their potential with an existing employer or
achieve greater balance with their work and home lives.
Executive Coaching & Mentoring
There is a great deal of overlap between business and executive
coaching or mentoring. Many people will offer either service, but
there is a growing body of professionals in the UK who are calling
themselves executive coaches and mentors and are differentiating
themsleves in the marketplace. The key differences between business
and executive coaching and mentoring are that Executive coaches and
- Have a track record in professional and executive roles
- Work exclusively with the 'high-flyers' or with those who have
potential to be a high flyer
- Work at board or CEO level within high profile or 'blue-chip'
- Offer total confidentiality
- Work with potential 'captains of industry' and high profile
Performance Coaching and mentoring
Many coaching clients will seek coaching or mentoring for
performance enhancement rather than the rectification of a
performance issue. Coaching & mentoring have been shown to be
highly successful intervention in these cases. When an organisation
is paying premium rates for development services, performance is
usually the key pay-back they are looking for. Even if an executive
or manager receives support in balancing work and home life, it
will be with the aim of increasing their effectiveness and
productivity at work and not for more altruistic reasons.
Performance coaching derives its theoretical underpinnings and
models from business and sports psychology as well as general
Skills coaching & mentoring
Skills coaching has some commonalities with one-to-one training.
Skills coaches & mentors combine a holistic approach to
personal development with the ability to focus on the core skills
an employee needs to perform in their role. Skills coaches &
mentors should be highly experienced and competent in performing
the skills they teach.
Job roles are changing at an ever increasing rate. Traditional
training programmes are often too inflexible or generic to deal
with these fast moving requirements. In these instances one-to-one
skills coaching allows a flexible, adaptive 'just-in-time' approach
to skills development. It is also possible to apply skills coaching
in 'live' environments rather than taking people away from the job
into a 'classroom' where it is less easy to simulate the job
Skills coaching programmes are tailored specifically to the
individual, their knowledge, experience, maturity and ambitions and
is generally focused on achieving a number of objectives for both
the individual and the company. These objectives often include the
individual being able to perform specific, well-defined tasks
whilst taking in to account the personal and career development
needs of the individual.
One-to-one skills training is not the same as the 'sitting next
to Nelly' approach to 'on the job training'. What differentiates it
is that like any good personal or professional development
intervention it is based on an assessment of need in relation to
the job-role, delivered in a structured (but highly flexible)
manner, and generates measurable learning and performance outcomes.
This form of skills training is likely to focus purely on the
skills required to perform the job function even though it may
adopt a facilitative coaching approach instead of a 'telling' or
Personal coaching & mentoring
Personal or 'life coaching' servcies have grown significantly in
the UK, Europe and Australia over the past decade. Personal coaches
may work face-to-face but email and telephone based relationships
are also very common. These coaches and mentors operate in highly
supportive roles to those who wish to make some form of significant
change happen within their lives.
Coaches offer their clients a supportive and motivating
environment to explore what they want in life and how they might
achieve their aspirations and fulfil their needs. By assisting the
client in committing to action and by being a sounding-board to
their experiences, coaching allows the individual the personal
space and support they need to grow and develop. The coach's key
role is often is assisting the client to maintain the motivation
and commitment needed to achieve their goals.
In many cases personal coaching is differentiated from business
coaching purely by the context and the focus of the programme.
Business coaching is always conducted within the constraints placed
on the individual or group by the organisational context. Personal
coaching on the other hand is taken entirely from the individual's
How do coaching and mentoring compare with related professional
|Traditional forms of
- Wholesale transfer of new skills, e.g. change in procedures,
new systems (e.g. software application training), new job
- Programmes are mostly generic and not tailored to individual
needs. Delegates generally have to complete standard modules, so
there is little room for tailoring the programme to account for
existing knowledge, skills or preferences.
- Not always sufficiently similar to the 'live' working
environment to ensure effective skills transfer.
- Best suited to transfer of knowledge and certain skills rather
than the development of personal qualities or competencies
- Development activities are designed to suit client's personal
needs (whether aspiration or performance related) and learning
- Fine tunes and develops skills.
- Can focus on interpersonal skills, which cannot be readily or
effectively transferred in a traditional training environment.
- Provides client with contacts and networks to assist with
furthering their career or life aspirations.
- Performed in the 'live' environment or off-line.
- Highly effective when used as a means of supporting training
initiatives to ensure that key skills are transferred to the 'live'
- Coaches and mentors transfer the skills to the client rather
than doing the job for them.
- Explore personal issues and problems through discussion in
order to increase understanding or develop greater
- The aim of counselling is to lead the client toward
self-directed actions to achieve their goals.
N.B. Coaching and counselling share many core
skills. However, professional counsellors work with personal issues
in much greater depth than would generally be explored within a
- Focus is on developing organisational practices, processes and
- Role generally more strategic and often used to instigate and
design broad ranging change programmes
- Consultancy frequently involves expert advice about specific
issues and organisational processes.
- Consultants are often brought in to provide specific
'solutions' to business problems and needs
- Consultant leads the job for the organisation: whilst
upskilling the employee/client may be a contractual part of the
service, it is not generally the primary goal.
N.B. The term consultant coach is often used
when the coach is external to the organisation and therefore
offering services on an 'external' or 'consultancy' basis. This is
not, however, the same as consultancy per se.
Coaching and mentoring has been offered by consultancy companies
for many years, even though it is not specifically 'consultancy' It
is only recently that people have begun drawing a distinction which
in some cases, like the distinction between coaching and mentoring,
is not useful in distinguishing between them.
Is coaching just therapy by another name?
Coaching is not necessarily 'therapy' by another name although
the key theoretical underpinnings, models and techniques found
their origins in the field of psychology and associated therapies
like gestalt &cognitive behavioural therapy which have broad
ranging applications in both organisational and personal
The key difference between coaching and the therapies is that
coaching does not seek to resolve the deeper underlying issues that
are the cause of serious problems like poor motivation, low
self-esteem and poor job performance. Coaching and mentoring
programmes are generally more concerned with the practical issues
of setting goals and achieving results within specific
Coaching and mentoring is generally commenced on the premise
that clients are self-aware and 'whole' and have selected coaching
or mentoring because they do not require a therapeutic
intervention. It is possible for someone who has underlying issues
to experience success within a coaching context even if the
underlying issues are not resolved. If, however, a client becomes
'stuck' and the coaching or mentoring programme is not achieving
desired results, then a psychological or therapeutic intervention
may be necessary for the client to move forward and achieve their
Coach & mentor training programmes which are typically quite
short are not aimed at qualifying coaches to conduct an assessment
of whether someone may be in need of a therapeutic intervention,
rather than a coaching or mentoring one. This is driven in part by
the professional restrictions and barriers that have traditionally
been placed around psychology and the therapies, but is mostly due
to the fact that psychological assessment is a complex process that
does require specialised training. Professional coaches &
mentors do, however, stay ever alert to the possibility that a
client may have or may develop issues or problems for which
coaching or mentoring on it's own, is not sufficient.
Client progress is always monitored and coaches and mentors
watch for signs which may indicate that a client requires an
assessment by a trained therapist. Some coaches will on-refer a
client to an appropriate therapist if this is felt to be useful.
Other coaches will conduct a coaching programme in parallel with a
Most coaches & mentors are keen to maintain the professional
boundaries between coaching & mentoring and the traditional
therapies and will collaborate with therapists when a client
requires this form of intervention.
The traditional therapies, psychology and counselling and their
relationship to coaching
Contrary to popular belief, therapy is not 'backwards focused'
and does not conform to the stereotype of spending 20 years
attending weekly sessions to discuss childhood experiences.
See A Guide to Psychology and its Practice for a more
realistic & modern view of what clinical psychology and the
therapies have to offer.
Therapy is, if anything, an extension of what happens in a
coaching relationship, it is forward focused and aimed at life
improvement or enhancement. It is about moving on and breaking free
from problems and issues that have held people back and prevented
them from getting all they can from their lives. Another popular
misconception is that in order to undergo therapy one must be
'crazy' or 'neurotic' which is not the case.
Therapy is also time-limited and based on an assessment of
needs. It is quite rare now to encounter therapies that involve
open-ended interventions that last for many years. Therapists are
highly trained, with 4 years of full-time undergraduate training
followed by 1-2 years full-time post-graduate study and from 3-5
supervised full-time practice before being considered 'qualified'.
Therapists, counsellors & clinical psychologists must usually
engage in professional 'supervision' for the whole of their career
to ensure that a high standards are maintained. Psychologists who
apply therapeutic approaches are also ethically and professionally
bound to work with clients only if measurable value can be
demonstrated, this means that if people do not actually NEED
therapy, it is not ethical for providers to continue providing the
Because of this relationship between coaching and psychology
& the therapies, some professionals offering coaching services
are, in fact, therapists, counsellors or psychologists. This means
it is possible to offer the appropriate level of service depending
on immediate needs and client preferences.
It is increasingly common for the titles such as 'positive' or
'coaching psychology' to be used make it easier for clients to find
service providers who take a psychological focus within their work
as a coach. For an explanation of coaching psychology as an area of
practice see www.coachingpsychologist.net/WhatIs/Index.php
Anyone seeking life improvement, and who is willing to work at
the deeper issues could benefit from contracting a coach or mentor
who does have a traditional therapeutic background in the first
instance. If the client is not sure what type of service would
benefit them the most, they should be encouraged to secure a
professional assessment by an appropriately qualified provider.
In some countries such as the UK, there is goverment regulation
in place for psychologists. A small number of restricted titles
have been identified by the Govt for the purpose of ensuring that
the public can be assured that any professional using these titles
is appropriately registered under the regulatory framework.
Titles restricted by the UK Goverment to protect the public
include Clinical Psychologist, Counselling Psychologist and
Occupational Psychologist. More general terms like psychologist,
therapist and counsellor are not restricted titles, so anyone is
able to use thee to market their services. The titles 'coaching
psychologist' and 'positive psychologist' are, for example, not
restricted. As this is the case, when selecting a coach or
mentor with therapeutic, counselling or business focused
psychological skills it is important to ensure they are registered
with an appropriate regulatory body. In the UK, titles for the
profession of psychology are regulated by the Health & Care
Professions Council www.hcpc-uk.org.