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Factsheet:

Coaching and mentoring

Resource summary

This factsheet was last updated in December 2015.

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’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.

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.

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  • What are coaching and mentoring?
  • Developing a coaching culture
  • Who delivers coaching in UK organisations
  • When is coaching the best development intervention
  • The role of HR and L&D in managing coaching activities
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  • References 
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