As you read, look for the similarities and differences in their views on (1) the specific purposes and value of ‘good’ coaching and mentoring, (2) recommended approaches, and (3) the differences between coaching and mentoring. Also, ask yourself as you read: what if anything do any of these resources say about contexts (system dynamics, the collective group of staff, environmental influences and considerations, etc)?
It’s possible to draw distinctions between coaching and mentoring although in practice the two terms are often used interchangeably.
Although there’s a lack of agreement among coaching professionals about precise definitions, there are some generally agreed characteristics of coaching in organisations:
- It’s essentially a non-directive form of development.
- It focuses on improving performance and developing an individual.
- Personal factors may be included but the emphasis is on performance at work.
- Coaching activities have both organisational and individual goals.
- It provides people with the opportunity to better assess their strengths as well as their development areas.
- It’s a skilled activity, which should be delivered by people who are trained to do so. This can be line managers and others trained in coaching skills.
Although coaching is widespread within organisations, there are challenges about how best to manage and deliver it. These include confusion over exactly what coaching involves, how best to manage the stakeholders in the process, when coaching is (or is not) an appropriate intervention, and how to work effectively with a complex external coaching industry.
Typically organisations apply coaching as a day-to-day management activity, embedded into one-to-one meetings and performance conversations. An issue that is often raised is how effectively managers can coach their own staff, given the power relationship and the need for some distance and impartiality in the coaching relationship.
Its merits need to be considered alongside other types of development interventions. Employee preferences also play a part. There is a danger that coaching can be seen as a solution for all kinds of development needs, whereas it must only be used when it is clearly seen as the best way of helping an individual learn and develop.
So before coaching starts, organisations need to assess an individual’s ‘readiness’ for this approach. This highlights the importance of the coachee’s motivation to achieve the desired outcome.
Mentoring relationships work best when they move beyond the directive approach of a senior colleague ‘telling it how it is’, to one where they both learn from each other. An effective mentoring relationship is a learning opportunity for both parties, encouraging sharing and learning across generations and/or between roles.
Books and reports
BRANN, A. (2014) Neuroscience for coaches. London: Kogan Page.
CLUTTERBUCK, D. (2014) Everyone needs a mentor: fostering talent in your organisation. 5th ed. London: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.
HADEN, S. (2013) It’s not about the coach. Winchester: Business Books.
JONES, G. and GORELL, R. (2018) How to create a coaching culture. 2nd ed. HR Fundamentals. London: CIPD and Kogan Page.
LANDSBERG, M. (2015) Mastering coaching: practical insights for developing high performance. London: Profile Books.
Visit the CIPD and Kogan Page Bookshop to see all our priced publications currently in print.
EMELO, R. (2015) Pillars of modern mentoring. Training Journal. April. pp32-34.
HABIG, J. and PLESSIER, F. (2014) Measuring the impact. Training Journal. March. pp64-69.
CIPD members can use our online journals to find articles from over 300 journal titles relevant to HR.
Members and People Management subscribers can see articles on the People Management website.
Box 1.1 A definition of coaching and mentoring
Coaching and mentoring are learning relationships which help people to take charge of their own development, to release their potential and to achieve results which they value. p6
We see coaching and mentoring as complementary activities. Both help people to take charge of their own development. The coaching or mentoring relationship facilitates insight, learning and change. p6
Effective coaching and mentoring are underpinned by nine key principles (summarized in Figure 1.1)
Effective coaching and mentoring start with clear expectations, continue with a negotiated working agreement, include ongoing evaluation and finish with well-prepared endings. pp11
Our definition of coaching and mentoring is that: both coaching and mentoring are learning relationships which help people to take charge of their own development, to release their potential and to achieve results which they value. p11
Zeus and Skiffington (2000) talk about coaching and mentoring as essentially a conversation where learning takes place through asking the right questions rather than providing answers. This leads to personal and professional transformation and reinventing oneself. p11
We broadly agree with these distinctions although we are aware that, in real life, ‘specific development issues’ (coaching) and ‘developing the client professionally’ (mentoring) are often inextricably linked. p13
Parsloe and Wray (2000: 82) summarize mentoring as ‘a process which supports learning and development, and thus performance improvements, either for an individual, team or business. Mentoring is usually understood as a special kind of relationship where objectivity, credibility, honesty, trustworthiness and confidentiality are critical’.
Frameworks… (pp14 – 18)
Recent approaches emphasize two elements. Firstly, the approach needs to be easily understood and used by busy leaders and managers who are expected to be internal coaches and mentors in organizations. Secondly, the focus should be on the talents and resources of the client and the possibilities in their work context, rather than on problems and deficiencies.
- The GROW model
- The Skilled Helper
- The Inner Game
- Non-directive approach
- Co-Active coaching
- Solution-focused coaching
- Team coaching
Beyond competence: the wise coach or mentor
The wise coach or mentor is competent, but continuously strives to increase the capacity to learn: about themselves; about their clients; and about the organizations and contexts in which clients live and work. Every experience is viewed as a learning opportunity and this ensures continuous incremental improvement. p21