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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 potential.

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 (philanthropic) role.

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 situation

Creatively apply tools and techniques which may include one-to-one training,
facilitating, counselling & networking.

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 relationship.

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 their goals.

Work within their area of personal competence.

Possess qualifications and experience in the areas that skills-transfer coaching is


Manage the relationship to ensure the client receives the appropriate level of
service and that programmes are neither too short, nor too long.

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Useful definitions

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...

Coaching is
"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

Mentoring is...
"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 of The European Mentoring and Coaching Council and highly respected
authors, academics and consultants in the mentoring arena.
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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 clients 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

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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 agencies.

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 significant

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.

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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 mentors typically

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 organisations
Offer total confidentiality
Work with potential 'captains of industry' and high profile business leaders

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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 management approaches.

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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 environment.

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 directive style.

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Personal coaching & mentoring

Personal or life coaching is growing significantly in the UK, Europe and Australia.
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 perspective.

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How do coaching and mentoring compare with other services?

Traditional forms of training Coaching/mentoring

Wholesale transfer of new skills, Development activities are designed
e.g. change in procedures, new to suit clients personal needs
systems (e.g. software (whether aspiration or performance
application training), new job related) and learning styles.
function. Fine tunes and develops skills.
Programmes are mostly generic Can focus on interpersonal skills,
and not tailored to individual which cannot be readily or
needs. Delegates generally have effectively transferred in a
to complete standard modules, traditional training environment.
so there is little room for Provides client with contacts and
tailoring the programme to networks to assist with furthering
account for existing knowledge, their career or life aspirations.
skills or preferences. Performed in the live environment
Not always sufficiently similar to or off-line.
the live working environment to Highly effective when used as a
ensure effective skills transfer. means of supporting training
Best suited to transfer of initiatives to ensure that key skills
knowledge and certain skills are transferred to the live
rather than the development of environment.
personal qualities or Coaches and mentors transfer the
competencies skills to the client rather than doing
the job for them.

Counselling Consultancy
Explore personal issues and Focus is on developing
problems through discussion in organisational practices, processes
order to increase understanding and structure.
or develop greater self- Role generally more strategic and
awareness. often used to instigate and design
The aim of counselling is to lead broad ranging change programmes
the client toward self-directed Consultancy frequently involves
actions to achieve their goals. expert advice about specific issues
and organisational processes.
Consultants are often brought in to
provide specific solutions to
business problems and needs
N.B Coaching and counselling share Consultant leads the job for the
many core skills. However, professional organisation: whilst upskilling the
counsellors work with personal issues in employee/client may be a
much greater depth than would generally contractual part of the service, it is
be explored within a coaching context. 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.
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Is coaching just therapy by another name?

Coaching is not 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 contexts.

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 time-scales.

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 goals.

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 its 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 therapeutic intervention.

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.

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The traditional therapies, psychology and counselling and their relationship to

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. Counsellors & clinical psychologists must also engage in
professional supervision for the whole of their career to ensure that a high standards are
maintained. Therapists 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 therapists to make money through providing it.

Because of this relationship between coaching and psychology & the therapies, some
professionals offering coaching services are, in fact, therapists or psychologists who are
marketing their services under the names coaching and mentoring. This means it is
possible to offer the appropriate level of service depending on immediate needs and client
preferences. This also has the benefit of transcending some of the negative conceptions
of what these services involve.

Services of this nature can often be found under the terms positive or coaching
psychology to 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

Anyone seeking life improvement, and who is willing to work at the deeper issues, should
consider contracting a coach or mentor who does have a traditional therapeutic
background in the first instance. If the client is not sure if they have issues that would
benefit from a therapeutic intervention are encouraged to secure professional an
assessment by an appropriately qualified person.

In the UK the terms psychologist, therapist and counsellor are not restricted to who can
use them so when selecting a coach or mentor with therapeutic or counselling skills it is
important to ensure they are accredited by the appropriate professional bodies e.g.
British Psychological Society, British Psychoanalytic Council or British Association for
Counselling. Note: in some countries the practice of psychology, psychotherapy and
counselling are government regulated and practitioners should hold appropriate licenses.