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Coaching and Mentoring 1

Bob Little 

September 25, 2015

The words “coach,” “mentor,” “counselor,” and “tutor” tend to be used as if they’re interchangeable. Yet, for some people, they represent a mystic art while, for others, they’re about the basic tools of building and sustaining their own performance, and of supporting others.

In fact, these roles fit on a continuum. Coaching means supporting individuals to improve their performance. Like tutoring, it tends to focus on a short-term task: the coach drives the act of coaching, showing the client where they’re going wrong and how to improve. The key to success is how the person being coached defines the desired improvement in performance.

The coach doesn’t need to possess technical expertise but draws to the fore such expertise in the client. The focus is on the talent that’s already there, eliciting from the client what he or she already has and knows.

A mentor, however, is more likely to have subject matter expertise in the client’s specialist field. Mentoring’s focus is on making progress – which may last a lifetime. The learner drives the mentoring process, with the mentor helping him work out the answer that he needs.

So, engaging in coaching will also involve elements of the other three activities. And a key issue in both coaching and mentoring is that of building trust with the client.

Hugo Heij, head of IMLS Coaching & Consulting and a member of Fluid Business Coaching, says, “Coaches challenge you. They needn’t be exceptional in your field but they ask you pertinent questions, and that helps you to learn.

“We all have mentors at different parts in our lives but a coach focuses on a particular part of your life – such as your business life. A coach should challenge you, stretch you and help you to grow, developing your skills to help you get to where you want to be.

“A top sportsperson such as Roger Federer can have several coaches – each one of which focuses on a particular aspect, such as fitness or mental preparation. When a sportsperson performs badly, her first thought may be that she’s not good enough and she should give up.

“That happens in business, too. That’s where a coach is valuable – to challenge this reaction and help the person draw out the lessons from that bad experience that helps her succeed next time.”

In a corporate context, the coach can:

  • Brief the client and give training support to the client’s line manager – along the lines of, “This is what we’d expect the client to know at the end of a month and this is what you could do to help him achieve it.”
  • Outline programs that a client might find beneficial.
  • Set up work shadowing for the client.

Tim Gallwey – known as the “grandfather of coaching” – wrote a best-selling series of books outlining a methodology for coaching and the development of personal and professional excellence in a variety of fields. According to him, “There’s always an ‘inner game’ being played in your mind, no matter what ‘outer game’ you’re playing. How aware you are of this inner game can make the difference between success and failure in the outer game.”

Among other things, Gallwey offers this formula for coaching:

P = p – I

where “P” is actual performance, “p” is potential to perform and “I” is interference. So, according to Gallwey, the key to successful coaching is to remove interference. This suggests that, while teaching anybody anything will involve “putting stuff into a person’s head,” to be a successful coach, you should be taking things away!

Among the many coaching models is “GROW.” This sets an agenda for the client, to help her identify useful strategies for change. Its components are:

  • Goal – what does the client want to achieve?
  • Reality – what’s the current situation?
  • Options – what are all the options available to the client?
  • Who, what, where, and so on – tactics for the client to achieve her goal, and whether she has the will.

Unfortunately, clients often try to adopt “WORG.” That is, they focus on the problem, not the goal, seeking sympathy instead of a plan of action.

In contrast, the sports coaching model is characterized by the high-performance pyramid. At the base of the pyramid is “Foundation (fun),” then comes “Participation (skill),” followed by “Performance,” and, finally, “Podium.” As clients move further up the pyramid towards being a champion, they often need to re-discover the fun in what they do. Fun provides the “buzz” and motivation that everyone needs to achieve success.

A variation on this pyramid is, from base up:

  • Physical.
  • Emotional.
  • Mental.
  • Spiritual.

A further coaching model looks at:

  • Identity – the client “discovers” who he is – is he determined to be a champion?
  • Values and beliefs – he answers the questions, “Do you believe you can succeed?” and, “Does it matter?”
  • Capability and know-how (it’s not the coach’s job to be concerned with this.)
  • Behavior – the client has to be something of a “natural” to be a champion but everything else in his make-up has to support this talent.
  • Environment and context – how does the world in which the client operates affect him?

Leadership coach Anthony Landale, working in both the public and private sectors, says, “The key for my clients is helping them to become as clear as possible about the future. What do they want? What are they trying to do? What’s their vision? The more powerful they can be in articulating their answer to this question the better.

“This focus is important because the future is central to every individual’s personal motivation, as well as to the people they might be leading. If a leader doesn’t have a clear sense of a future that she cares about, then her chances of engaging others are pretty much nil.

“I use the ‘Future, Engage, Deliver’ model of leadership coaching – it’s tremendously helpful in this respect. It’s easy to understand and apply, and helps those being coached to understand how they can raise their game and bring more energy to the issues that matter to them most.”

What’s your experience of coaching? Is it harder to provide or respond to? Share your thoughts and questions below.

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One comment on “Coaching and Mentoring 1”:

  1. jugeswar wrote:

    I do agree in drawing future as motivating factor. As and when I appeal and motivate a group of Trainees, I use to challenge them to be someone worth remembering by generation to come and much more to be someone family will love to refer and remember. It works.