How coaching and mentoring works?

Coaching And Mentoring

Coaching and mentoring are processes that enable both private individuals, also managers and leaders within companies and organisations to achieve their full potential. Although similar, there are fundamental differences and views vary widely as to their exact nature. The following definitions have served me over the years to help people understand and embrace coaching and mentoring.

What is mentoring?
  • Derived from Greek mythology – Odysseus, King of Ithaca, went to fight the Trojan War and entrusted his son Telemachus to the care and direction of his entrusted friend, Mentor
  • ‘Mentor’ is now synonymous with trusted adviser, friend, teacher, wise person
  • Oxford dictionary definition ‘experienced and trusted adviser’
How does mentoring work?

Mentoring enables an individual (mentee) to work with and follow in the path of an ‘older and wiser’ colleague who is the Confidante, Teacher, Role Model, Adviser, Friend, Helper who can pass on knowledge, experience, and open doors to otherwise out of reach opportunities. I was Mentor to several people in my management career and you may also have mentored various subordinates to help them develop their careers. Or you may have developed an area of specialism which you could demonstrate as an expert and mentor newcomers.

External mentors are only different in the fact that they are independent of the organisation; therefore, have no line responsibility for the ‘mentee’. External mentors are being heavily used in different ways to support businesses e.g.:

  • Business start-up
  • Business growth
  • Young entrepreneurs
  • Specific individual progression within organisations (especially senior executives) where they do not have the internal resource
What is Coaching?

Coaching gained massively in popularity in the nineties and into the new millennium, as individuals and businesses started to realise the transformational value that the coaching approach can bring. This is especially true at key times of change to enable people or businesses to move from where they are now to where they want to be. This is what excites me about coaching. There are a million and one definitions of coaching, here is mine:

“Coaching is facilitating the process of unlocking potential to achieve specific personal or business goals.”

There are many more complex definitions. However, this works for me as it is simple and I hope you agree, self-explanatory.

Essentially, Coaching is a form of personal development. It is the process by which individuals are enabled, through questioning and discussion to achieve specific goals, e.g. to change careers, to solve problems. Or they may wish to transfer their learning to the workplace, in order to improve their personal performance, gain insights about themselves, their capabilities and potential.

How does coaching work?
  • Developing an individual’s performance by unlocking their capabilities through guided questioning, the use of coaching tools and conversation
  • Supporting the coachee as a facilitator, helping to raise their awareness through analysis and reflection
  • Facilitating the coachee to arrive at their own ideas and solutions
  • A good coach should be able to develop a powerful relationship with the coachee based on honest and non-judgmental dialogue
  • Challenging perceptions and behaviour in a way that will enable the coachee to make significant transformations or performance improvements
  • Because coaching involves the participation of the coachee to find their own solutions and agree the actions they will take, it drives deeper and more lasting behavioural change than other forms of training

In general, although there will be exceptions, coaching should not be directional, as the coach does not provide answers to specific problems. Instead, they will facilitate the process of self-resolution through specific questioning. Therefore, the coach does not need to be an expert in the specific area requiring development but must be highly skilled in questioning and active listening. However, there inevitably comes a point in the coaching relationship when the coachee will ask the coach for very specific advice or recommendations.

There are numerous forms of speciality or niche coaching. To help me get my first book project off the ground, I worked with a ‘writer’s coach’. They were recommended to me as someone who could help me put structure around my book idea and turn it into reality.

Although I had written dozens of articles, writing a book is a different ball game. I would not have engaged my Coach if I did not know she was a specialist in her field, as I had many questions and much to learn!

Sports coaching tends to be much more directional, although a good coach will often question the coachee about why something is either working well or not, before giving their view. This is a much more powerful approach, as the coachee will often give reasons and thoughts that the coach may not have considered. The coach might only be looking at things from a technical perspective, rather than physical or psychological.

Other examples of coaching:
  • Life Coaching
  • Executive Coaching
  • Performance Coaching
  • Corporate/Business Coaching
  • Small Business Coaching
  • Group/Team Coaching
  • Relationship Coaching
  • Parent Coaching
  • Retirement Coaching
  • Youth Coaching

Steve Preston

MD, SMP Solutions (Career & People Development) Ltd

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