Coaching and mentoring are development techniques based on the use of one-to-one discussions to enhance an individual’s skills, knowledge or work performance.It’s possible to draw distinctions between coaching and mentoring although in practice the two terms are often used interchangeably. While the focus of this factsheet is on coaching, much of also applies to mentoring.
What is coaching?
#Coaching targets high performance and improvement at work and usually focuses on specific skills and goals, although it may also have an impact on an individual’s personal attributes such as social interaction or confidence. The process typically lasts for a relatively short defined period of time, or forms the basis of an on-going management style.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, though this isn't a hard and fast rule.
It focuses on improving performance and developing individuals’ skills.
Personal issues may be discussed but the emphasis is on performance at work.
Coaching activities have both organisational and individual goals.
It provides people with feedback on both their strengths and their weaknesses.
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 basic coaching skills.
What is mentoring?
#Mentoring involves the use of the same models and skills of questioning, listening, clarifying and reframing associated with coaching.Traditionally, however, mentoring in the workplace has tended to describe a relationship in which a more experienced colleague uses his or her greater knowledge and understanding of the work or workplace to support the development of a more junior or inexperienced member of staff.One key distinction is that mentoring relationships tend to be longer term than coaching arrangements. In a succession planning scenario, for example, a regional finance director might be mentored by a group level counterpart over a lengthy period to develop a sound understanding of dealing with the boardroom, presenting to analysts and challenging departmental budgets, all in a supportive environment.Mentoring relationships work best when they move beyond the directive approach of a senior colleague ‘telling it how it is’, to one where both learn from each other. An effective mentoring relationship is a learning opportunity for both parties. This is particularly productive when used to encourage inclusive working practices and equal opportunities, for example where a senior female or ethnic minority leader mentors a more junior colleague from a similar background. Reverse mentoring (where a more junior colleague mentors a senior leader) can also be effective in encouraging sharing and learning across generations and/or between role levels.
Andy Lancaster: Head of Learning and Development CIPD