1. What is the difference between coaching and mentoring? When to use each?
Mentoring tends to be related to someone more experienced or knowledgeable passing on information, ideas, approaches and resources to a less experienced person. It is commonly used for a new staff member or someone new to role, if someone else can share knowledge and expertise. A mentoring conversation will incorporate advice and tips, although it may also include use of coaching approaches to encourage the mentee to devise their own action plan once ideas have been shared. Many mentors and coaches acknowledge that they move up and down a continuum from mentoring to coaching as conversations evolve with their partner.
Coaching tends to involve a reflective dialogue in which the coach may have some or no expertise in the subject under discussion – their role is to foster high quality thinking and encourage the coachee to find their own answers. Doesn’t tend to involve much or any advice sharing. It can be used for building confidence, highlighting strengths, improving performance, developing personal or professional skills, planning something etc. at any point in your career.
2. What are the key skills managers need to develop in order to add coaching to their management toolbox? Does a coach need particular skills or personality?
I think some of the main skills are:
1. Active listening skills, paying attention to words, energy and body language
2. Positive, well-formed questions that help people identify strengths and their own options for action
3. Solution-focused mind set, believing change and progress is possible, even through micro steps
4. Knowing when to coach and when a mentoring or advising conversation would work best – being aware that you have those options and choosing the most appropriate tool for the job
5. Summarising key points verbally and in writing in ways that support the coachee- asking them about how best to do it
6. Being really specific about action points – who, when and where things will happen
7. Honouring and being clear on confidentiality within the coaching relationship
I have seen very different types of people coach others successfully so I don’t think a particular personality is needed. I think an interest in others’ ideas and in communication probably helps. I think skills and approaches make a coach and those can be developed.
3. What training opportunities are there for someone completely new to coaching?
Introduction to coaching approaches: I run these in organisations for up to 25 people in a group so you could contact me to find out more:
For a formal qualification, ILM run coaching courses at a range of levels.
4. What are the most effective ways to practise coaching skills?
Coaching pairs or triads work really well, I find. In the triad, one person coaches another while the third gives feedback on skills used before people swap roles. Some organisations use this model as part of management development sessions, while they develop skills and confidence in coaching.
Practise with a colleague informally and give each other medal and mission feedback about something you are doing well and something you could enhance further/improve.
Pick someone in your team that you feel comfortable with and try it out in a 1:1, being explicit that you are trying out a new approach. Ask for their feedback. Once you get comfortable doing this you could ask them if it’s ok to video or tape the conversation so you can watch it back and reflect on it. The tape would have to stay confidential between the two of you, obviously!
Pick one agenda item in your meeting slot and re-work it so you are using a coaching approach: don’t tell, ask! If this is a big change of style for you, you may want to tell the team this is coming.
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