Coaching and mentoring
This factsheet was last updated in August 2013.
What are coaching and mentoring?
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 is possible to draw distinctions between coaching and mentoring (as discussed below) although in practice the two terms are often used interchangeably. While the focus of this factsheet is on coaching, much of the analysis presented here is also applicable to mentoring.
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 period.
Although there is a lack of agreement among coaching professionals about precise definitions, the following are some generally agreed characteristics of coaching in organisations:
- It is essentially a non-directive form of development, though this is not 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 is a skilled activity, which should be delivered by people who are trained to do so. However, this can be line managers and others trained in basic coaching skills (see below).
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.
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- The differences between coaching, mentoring and counselling
- Developing a coaching culture
- Who delivers coaching in UK organisations
- When is coaching the best development intervention
- The role of HR in managing coaching activities
- CIPD viewpoint
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- Further reading.