Blog » Coaching and mentoring – what you need to know

Coaching and mentoring – what you need to know

2nd January 2020

January’s issue of ask the expert includes everything you need to know about coaching and mentoring in the workplace. From the benefits to the barriers and tips for coaching and mentoring employees, we’ve got it covered.

What are coaching and mentoring?

Coaching and mentoring are conversations that take place aiming to improve and develop performance, both personally and/or professionally. An experienced coach or mentor can help to make sense of people’s stories. In doing so both parties can work on establishing goals, exploring their current reality, generating different options and agreeing the way forward. Conversations typically last for about 1-2 hours and can span several months.

What is the difference between coaching and mentoring?

Coaches and mentors share many of the same skills; such as asking questions, active listening and making observations. The main point of difference comes down to the experience levels. A mentor requires more experience than the mentee in relation to their development needs. To inspire the mentee, questions can be offered and advice shared. Mentoring relationships tend to last longer and occur more informally. Whereas a coach can support and challenge a coachee in a more indirect way, without this prior experience.

What are the benefits of coaching and mentoring employees?

It’s difficult to accurately measure the learning outcomes, however, developing confidence, improved relationships and building resilience are common topics of conversation. Other benefits include a tailored approach given that conversations take place on a one to one and timely basis.

Why do we need coaching and mentoring in the workplace?

Coaching and mentoring can offer an immediate learning opportunity, sometimes referred to as the glue that makes the learning stick. Whilst conversations can stand alone, they can also integrate with other forms of learning, such as training, online courses or on the job experiences.

What are the responsibilities of a coach or mentor?

An effective coach or mentor needs to contract effectively, for example, setting the boundaries, timescales and goals. They need to be clear on their identity and how they are being of service, albeit grey areas between coaching and mentoring can still crop up. Bringing structure to help unpack the narrative is crucial. A simple model (for example GROW) ensures that the conversation stays on track both in the short and long term. Managers who coach can be very effective, although sometimes given their own roles within an organisation they may experience a conflict of interest.

What are the barriers?

Actually, the beauty of coaching and mentoring is that it is relatively accessible. Like many forms of learning time needs to be invested wisely. Likewise, if you are calling upon external resources then financial considerations will apply. Many coachees or mentees are concerned about what they might learn about themselves. Although it’s often strengths that emerge more so than development areas. 

Factors to consider when implementing coaching and mentoring

I would recommend choosing and/or developing resources that resonate with your coaching/mentoring context and interests. Books, podcasts, models and approaches etc that will meet your needs, and allow you to practice continuous professional development. Similarly training will need to be offered to support people, both initially and on an ongoing basis. A mix of both internal and external coaches and mentors is worth considering.

Tips for coaching and mentoring employees

As coach or mentor I encourage you to be authentic. Think about what elements of coaching and mentoring bring out the best in you. Enabling you to express your values, attitudes and beliefs in a skilful and timely manner. You will also have to make sure that your coachee or mentee is ready for the conversations ahead, are they coachable? It’s not about you, it’s about them. Also calling upon authenticity they will need to be willing to explore possibilities, shift their own perspectives and ultimately perform optimally.

Stuart Haden
Commercial Learning Consultant, CIPD

Find out more in the CIPD factsheet.

Keep an eye on the nijobfinder blog for the latest ask the expert topic, questions and answers.

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