Coaching and mentoring

Coaching and Mentoring

"The idea that people make the difference is often present in Mission and Strategic statements but very often is not followed through. Lots more companies are waking up to the fact that people can't always 'do it' alone and that they need support, guidance and nurturing."


Most markets in the current business world are under pressure. Sales are tough to win and profits are under the scrutiny of shareholders. Competitive edge is difficult to gain and quickly copied whilst people are asked to produce more and better. How then to respond to all these challenges to improve performance while keeping a healthy work/life balance? There is growing evidence that Coaching & Mentoring may well be the answer.


Recent studies are confirming that this new approach could meet the needs of members of staff because there are two things that stimulate people more than anything else in a working environment; being challenged in a new role and to have a key individual that provides help and support.


Coaching & Mentoring have become increasingly popular in UK and are fast developing in West European countries. This new emphasis on people development has been driven by several powerful forces. Firstly there has been a trend towards flattening of the hierarchies within organisations and in the reduction of the number of management levels. Secondly, the labour market has changed, people are more mobile and recognize and prefer to work for companies where a coaching culture exists because it is much more fun and rewarding working for them. Third, business conditions, markets and technologies are all changing very fast and companies can no longer afford to send staff away on week-long training. Training needs to be continuous and more ‘on the job’.  


All this points to the need for continuous professional development of individuals, more on a one-to-one basis, and to the need for a more collaborative approach to working. Coaching & Mentoring could certainly help the process. But what are Coaching & Mentoring? There is a great deal of misrepresentation and misperception when it comes to defining Coaching and Mentoring. Both terms have been redefined over time to accommodate socio-economic changes so that there are almost as many definitions of coaching and mentoring as there are practitioners.  To make things worse the way Europe and the US interpret the words slightly differs.


The word mentor comes from the Greek mythology. Odysseus before going on one of his trips entrusted his son Telemachus to his good friend Mentor so that he could protect and advise him. The word mentor has now become synonymous with ‘trusted friend’, teacher, wiser person and Mentoring as the art of facilitating the performance, the learning and the development of another. The accent here is more on the development of the capabilities of the individual and is more of a long term process. Coaching on the other hand is primarily about performance and the development of specific skills and works more on the short term (it is also used in sport, business to business, in the academic world etc.). Helping people to learn rather than teaching them. There are large overlaps between Coaching and Mentoring. Essentially though, both coaching and mentoring are powerful processes which allow an individual, a team or an organisation to unlock potential through self awareness.

How does coaching and mentoring work?


Coaching & Mentoring work at their best when they become part of the way a company works; in other words when the coach/mentoring culture is embedded into the organisation.


Coaching & Mentoring are mostly understood as a means to assist individuals to grow and develop however, if the entire organisation was to tap into the power, ideas and wisdom of its own members, that could lead to a real change of approach to working!


On a one-2-one basis Mentoring provides the mentee with the opportunity to access mentors to discuss / identify solutions to issues of importance to their personal and professional life. The mentors will undertake to give some time (to be agreed with the mentee) to meet either face to face or virtually and to give their support and expertise. Executive coaching is also provided on a one-2-one basis. Typical instances where executive coaching is required would be when a manager with potential has been promoted and is having difficulty performing in the new role or when an individual has relationship issues that are creating problems at an organisational level.


On a company level Mentoring is implemented by setting up Mentoring Programme for a department or for the entire organisation. A programme entails an analysis of needs and the establishment of criteria for success. These are followed by an induction of mentees, a training for all participant mentors and matching of mentees/mentors. These activities are interspersed with reviews sessions on a one-2-one and on a group basis. The whole process should last between 9 and 12 months or longer! Face to face meetings occur roughly on a monthly basis. Phone meetings represent a valid alternative. The beauty of in-house mentoring schemes is that once the mentees have gone through the process they can become mentors in their turn. This can have rippling effects on the company and lead to the integration of the coach-mentoring style and skills with other managerial behaviours.


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Article by: Gaby Marcon Clarke

Date: 04/12/2014