Listening and observation are key skills for the business Coach. Developing the skill of observation is partly to develop the ability to be ‘inside’ the coaching conversation, and to be ‘observing’ the conversation. It is to take up a meta-position, while never leaving the micro-level of being present for the client
In the business world, managing as a coach is a necessity not only for your success, but also for your survival. Business coaching is about helping employees become more effective — and supporting and involving your employees in the process. Coaching influences employee adaptability, productivity, and retention. It helps you make better use of your time.
The definition of coaching, in a business context, has the two following aspects:
A process that enables learning and development to occur and thus performance to improve. To be a successful a Coach requires a knowledge and understanding of process as well as the variety of styles, skills and techniques that are appropriate to the context in which the coaching takes place
Eric Parsloe, The Manager as Coach and Mentor (1999)
“Off-line help by one person to another in making significant transitions in knowledge, work or thinking”
Clutterbuck, D & Megginson, D, Mentoring Executives and Directors (1999)

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What are Coaching and Mentoring?

What are Coaching and Mentoring?

Both coaching and mentoring are processes that enable both individual and corporate clients to achieve their full potential.

Coaching and mentoring share many similarities so it makes sense to outline the common things coaches and mentors do whether the services are offered in a paid (professional) or unpaid (philanthropic) role.

  • Facilitate the exploration of needs, motivations, desires, skills and thought processes to assist the individual in making real, lasting change.
  • Use questioning techniques to facilitate client’s own thought processes in order to identify solutions and actions rather than takes a wholly directive approach
  • Support the client in setting appropriate goals and methods of assessing progress in relation to these goals
  • Observe, listen and ask questions to understand the client’s situation
  • Creatively apply tools and techniques which may include one-to-one training, facilitating, counselling & networking.
  • Encourage a commitment to action and the development of lasting personal growth & change.
  • Maintain unconditional positive regard for the client, which means that the coach is at all times supportive and non-judgemental of the client, their views, lifestyle and aspirations.
  • Ensure that clients develop personal competencies and do not develop unhealthy dependencies on the coaching or mentoring relationship.
  • Evaluate the outcomes of the process, using objective measures wherever possible to ensure the relationship is successful and the client is achieving their personal goals.
  • Encourage clients to continually improve competencies and to develop new developmental alliances where necessary to achieve their goals.
  • Work within their area of personal competence.
  • Possess qualifications and experience in the areas that skills-transfer coaching is offered.
  • Manage the relationship to ensure the client receives the appropriate level of service and that programmes are neither too short, nor too long.

C or M

The difference between coaching and mentoring

As can be seen above, there are many similarities between coaching and mentoring! Mentoring, particularly in its traditional sense, enables an individual to follow in the path of an older and wiser colleague who can pass on knowledge, experience and open doors to otherwise out-of-reach opportunities. Coaching on the other hand is not generally performed on the basis that the coach has direct experience of their client’s formal occupational role unless the coaching is specific and skills focused.

Having said this, there are professionals offering their services under the name of mentoring who have no direct experience of their clients’ roles and others offering services under the name of coaching who do. So the moral of the story is, it is essential to determine what your needs are and to ensure that the coach or mentor can supply you with the type and level of service you require, whatever that service is called.

Differences with other professional services

How do coaching and mentoring compare with related professional services?

Traditional forms of training

  • Wholesale transfer of new skills, e.g. change in procedures, alternative systems (e.g. software application training), new job function.
  • Programmes are mostly generic and not tailored to individual needs. Delegates have to complete standard modules, so there is little room for tailoring the programme to account for existing knowledge, skills or preferences.
  • Not always sufficiently similar to the ‘live’ working environment to ensure effective skills transfer.
  • Best suited to transfer of knowledge and certain skills rather than the development of personal qualities or competencies


  • Explore personal issues and problems through discussion to increase understanding or develop greater self-awareness.
  • The aim of counselling is to lead the client toward self-directed actions to achieve their goals.

N.B. Coaching and counselling share many core skills. However, professional counsellors work with personal issues in much greater depth than would be explored within a coaching context.


  • Development activities suit client’s personal needs (whether aspiration or performance related) and learning styles.
  • Fine tunes and develops skills.
  • Can focus on interpersonal skills, which cannot be readily or effectively transferred in a traditional training environment.
  • Provides client with contacts and networks to assist with furthering their career or life aspirations.
  • Performed in the ‘live’ environment or off-line.
  • Highly effective when used to support training initiatives to ensure that we transfer key skills to the ‘live’ environment.
  • Coaches and mentors transfer the skills to the client rather than doing the job for them.


  • Focus is on developing organisational practices, processes and structure.
  • Role more strategic and often used to instigate and design broad ranging change programmes
  • Consultancy frequently involves expert advice about specific issues and organisational processes.
  • They often bring consultants in to provide specific ‘solutions’ to business problems and needs
  • Consultant leads the job for the organisation: whilst upskilling the employee/client may be a contractual part of the service, it is not the primary goal.

N.B. I often use the term consultant coach when the coach is external to the organisation and therefore offering services on an ‘external’ or ‘consultancy’ basis. This is not, however, the same as consultancy per se.

Coaching and mentoring been offered by consultancy companies for many years, even though it is not specifically ‘consultancy’ It is only recently that people have drawn a distinction which sometimes, like the distinction between coaching and mentoring, is not useful in distinguishing between them.

Not therapy

Is coaching just therapy by another name?

Coaching is not necessarily ‘therapy’ by another name although the key theoretical underpinnings, models and techniques found their origins in psychology and associated therapies like gestalt & cognitive behavioural therapy which have broad-ranging applications in both organisational and personal contexts.

The key difference between coaching and the therapies is that coaching does not seek to resolve the deeper underlying issues that cause serious problems like poor motivation, low self-esteem and poor job performance. Coaching and mentoring programmes are more concerned with the practical issues of setting goals and achieving results within specific time-scales.

We coach and mentoring on the premise that clients are self-aware and ‘whole’ and have selected coaching or mentoring because they do not require a therapeutic intervention. It is possible for someone who has underlying issues to experience success within a coaching context even if it does not resolve the underlying issues. If, however, a client becomes ‘stuck’ and the coaching or mentoring programme is not achieving desired results, then a psychological or therapeutic intervention may be necessary for the client to move forward and achieve their goals.

Coach & mentor training programmes which are typically short and not aimed at qualifying coaches to conduct an assessment of whether someone may need a therapeutic intervention, rather than a coaching or mentoring one. We drive this in part by the professional restrictions and barriers that have traditionally placed around psychology and the therapies, but is mostly because psychological assessment is a complex process that requires specialised training. Professional coaches & mentors do, however, stay ever alert to the possibility that a client may have or may develop issues or problems for which coaching or mentoring on its own, is not sufficient.

Client progress is monitored and coaches and mentors watch for signs which may show that a client requires an assessment by a trained therapist. Some coaches will on-refer a client to an appropriate therapist if they felt this to be useful. Other coaches will conduct a coaching programme in parallel with a therapeutic intervention.

Most coaches & mentors are keen to maintain the professional boundaries between coaching & mentoring and the traditional therapies and will collaborate with therapists when a client requires this form of intervention.