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Defining Coaching and Mentoring

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Ann Pugh

on 26 June 2013

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Transcript of Defining Coaching and Mentoring

An exploration of Coaching and Mentoring
by Ann Pugh

where shall I start? What do I know?
but what is a mentor?
The term coach, originating from the sixteenth century, was used to define a carriage or vehicle used for conveying precious or important people from one place to another.
In Greek mythology, Mentor was a friend and adviser of Odysseus and his son Telemachus. The Goddess Athena visited Telemachus during his father's absence at the Trojan wars in the guise of Mentor to offer advice and guidance.

As a result of Mentor's relationship with Telemachus and Athena (disguised as Mentor) the term mentor is now used to refer to someone who shares wisdom and knowledge with a less experienced colleague.
Hold on! Both those descriptions seem very similar. Both
seem to refer to someone who helps another person progress
in some way. I need more information...
I have found these definitions of coaching helpful:
"Coaching is a partnership of equals whose aim is to achieve the speedy, increased and sustained effectiveness through focused learning in every aspect of the client's life. Coaching raises self-awareness and identity choices. Working to the client's agenda, the client and coach have the sole aim of closing the gaps between potential and performance." (Rogers, 2012:3)
To my mind this is key as it is the coachee who sets the agenda and drives the sessions. The coach's primary role is that of facilitator.
Coaching is "concerned with drawing out the solutions to a problem by effective questioning and listening. It is non-hierarchical and does not depend on expert/ subject specific knowledge." (Allison and Harbour, 2009:2)
This highlights how crucial it is for the coach to be skilled in the art of coaching and therefore listening, as opposed to being a traditional teacher who imparts knowledge. I am beginning to realise how important the relationship between coach and coachee is. Some of the literature seems to suggest that mentors are less concerned with unlocking potential. I am not so sure, at this stage. Finally...
"Coaching is unlocking people's potential to maximise their own performance." (Whitmore, 2002:10)
This last description is illustrated perfectly by the following anecdote from Whitmore (2002:13)......
In this assignment I am going to explore:
my understanding of and thoughts on coaching and mentoring
the principles underpinning coaching and mentoring
the common characteristics of good coaching and mentoring
models used in coaching and mentoring practice
where coaching and mentoring lie on the directive / non-directive continuum
differences between coaching and mentoring and some common tensions
Mick Sprecklen was at one stage coach to the formidable rowing pair of Andy Holmes and Sir Steven Redgreave. Having passed on all his knowledge and expertise to the pair he was anxious that he had taken the pair as far as he could. Upon completion of a coaching course, however, He found that by initiating a learning dialogue with the rowers he was able to tap into their expert knowledge and experience and combine them with his own skills to enhance their performance further. Sprecklen found that the feelings and thoughts of Redgreave and Homles becaming the driving force in the coahing relationship. Whitmore makes the point that the essence of good coaching is that it enables the coachee or coachees to be taken beyound the knowledge and expertise of the coach.
The formidable rowing pair comprising Sir Steve Redgrave and Andy Holmes were successfully coached by Mike Spracklen. At one point in their relationship Spracklen felt he could take them no further; he had taught them all he knew. Upon completion of a Performance Coaching course , however, Spracklen embarked on a new approach; he realised that by listening to the experience and feelings of the sportsmen he was able to unlock more of their potential and take them further than previously when he had relied solely on his own expertise. In other words, they developed a successful learning dialogue integral to the coaching. As Whitmore says "Good coaching, and good mentoring for that matter, should take the performer beyond the limitations of the coach or mentor's own knowledge." (Whitmore, 2002:13)
I now see why coaching is often referred to as the "blue sky" approach - the sky is the limit.
Clearly coaches need a particular set of skills.
All coaches should be able to...
listen actively and ask open questions
clarify points and sum up
encourage reflection and a solution
focused approach
see the big picture
encourage others to agree on action
acknowledge that they don't have all the
challenge beliefs and current thinking
respect confidentiality
(Allison and Harbour, 2009)
This is a demanding list of attributes. I wonder how many "coaches" are screened for these skills or are trained in acquiring them for that matter? We should be wary of a piecemeal approach to coaching, I think. How many of the "coaches" we encounter in our working lives are simply colleagues having a go because they've been asked to. I was asked to lead a coaching triangle once and didn't have the slightest idea of what a good coach looked like or did!
accessed 02/01/2013
So far coaching seems clearly placed towards the non-directive end
of the continuum. I like the distinction between "push" and "pull" - it seems to encapsulate the heart of coaching and perhaps the difference to traditional mentoring. Many would argue that true learning takes place when we are asked the right questions and not when we are provided with the answers. Does this mean that mentoring is flawed and coaching is the more powerful?
Coaching (and mentoring) frequently occur in unstructured situations - think about all the little conversations people have all the time that influence our thinking and actions. We are frequently sounding boards for others - listening and asking questions without necessarily offering advice.
However, all my reading suggests that where coaching is used as a planned vehicle for change and development, it is best to have a model to frame the coaching sessions.
I have encountered lots of different coaching models during my research, many of which are very similar. One of my favourites is the HILDA model developed by Allison and Harbour (Allison and Harbour, 2009).

H - highlight the the issue
I - identify the strengths
L - look at the possibilities
D - decide to commit to action
A - analyse and evaluate the action

Firstly, I love the name! Having recognised the importance of listening and asking the right questions to effective coaching, surely the nosy neighbour type of person would be just right for the job - provided she could keep her opinions to herself! Secondly, I like the idea of focusing on the coachee's strengths and avoiding the pitfall of dwelling on the negatives, which does not tend to encourage growth.
As I understand it, the key thing about any coaching dialogue is that it is natural and flowing - it should never be scripted (Allison and Harbour, 2009). Whichever model is chosen, it should never be restrictive; the model is there to aid coaching and should be put aside if it is not meeting the needs of the coachee (Connor, 2012).
Sadly there are people
masquerading as coaches
who don't seem to know
what they are doing.
Watch this clip and see
how many coaching errors
you can spot.
I was happy with the idea that coaching was client-driven - this seemed clear-cut, but I found it odd that coaching should be so prevalent in both business and education worlds when the management apparently had very little input into the sessions, which they were (usually) funding. Is there something I am missing?
Schools as well as businesses are increasingly recognising the value coaching can play in staff development. In recent years school leaders have come to realise that money spent on training staff in the traditional sense (sending them on courses or buying in an expert speaker to address staff) was not beneficial long-term to improved performance. Teachers knowledge of pedagogy may improve, but this did not translate into sustained change in practice (Allison and Harbour, 2009). Research by Joyce and Showers repeatedly showed that when teachers attended standard in service training sessions, they would apply less than 20% of their learning back in the classroom (Showers, Joyce and Bennett, 1987; Showers and Joyce, 1995, cited in Allison and Harbour, 2009)
With school and business leaders setting the agenda in this way, the coaching would seem to shift towards
the directive spectrum of the continuum. To what extent does the client still drive the agenda?
Specialist coaches might be brought in from outside to focus on a particular aspect or problem. The Spokane School District in the USA followed a district wide coaching model involving numerous schools and staff working with specialist coaches both in workshops and in schools with the aim of improving student performance. The coaches were to provide knowledge of effective strategies, assist teachers by demonstrating and modelling, provide feedback, plan with teachers, facilitate workshops and provide on-going professional support (Spokane, 2004).
Other schools may look to their own staff to provide the expertise. In this video clip we see how a specialist maths teacher works with a group of teachers in their own school to improve teaching and learning. I particularly like the way the group works as a team and how the instructional coach keeps coming back to the team's strengths.
The way this group works it would appear
that the group sets the agenda, but we
cannot be certain of this. Nor do we know how
receptive the group as a whole (or any individual)
is to the coaching. You can lead a horse to water, but
you cannot make it drink.
Through my reading it is apparent that people struggle to define what mentoring is. With my limited information and experience, I think it best I should not try. Instead I will look to others for guidance..
"Mentors provide personal and emotional guidance, coaching, advocacy, career development facilitation, role modeling, strategies and systems advice, learning facilitation, and friendship". (Fowler and O'Gorman, 2005 cited in Dobie, Smith and Robins, 2010:337)

This is a formidable list of expectations. I find it interesting that term "facilitation" should appear in connection with mentoring as it cropped up a lot in my reading about coaching. It is also interesting to note "friendship". This did not arise in my previous reading and would place great significance on the mentoring relationship.
According to Stone (2007: 158):
"Mentoring is often confused with coaching, but mentoring goes beyond coaching. It is a relationship in which you do more than train employees to do their job well. Rather your focus is to share your experience, wisdom and political savvy to enable your top performers to take on tasks beyond those designated in their job descriptions".

This would tie in with what we know as the traditional view of mentoring involving a younger and less-experienced person being guided by someone with greater experience and knowledge.
Whitmore (2012:13) quotes Odysseus in explaining why he believes traditional mentoring to be flawed:
"Tell him all you know" Odysseus instructs Mentor when he asks him to guide and help Telemachus.
Whitmore claims that if all a mentor does is pass on knowledge and expertise he is limiting the potential achievements of the mentee. From my reading I would suggest that there is much more to mentoring than this and much common ground between the two when it comes to unlocking potential.
Orland-Barak (2010) claims that good mentoring enhances collaboration between colleagues, empowers individuals and promotes continual professional development.
This would suggest that mentoring could also be linked to "blue-sky-thinking and defies the accusation that it is has a ceiling.
What does a good mentor look like? These are the key attributes I have encountered in my reading:
they are role models of professionalism
they are experts in their field and can model good practice
they have excellent subject knowledge and experience
they are able to translate this knowledge for mentor purposes
they are sensitive to the feelings and needs of others
they have excellent interpersonal skills
they are flexible and can adapt to the needs of the mentee
they are open to learning from others
they strive for personal professional growth
they are well organised
they can challenge the thinking and beliefs of others
they can facilitate reflection
Above all, they are able to maintain the balance between support and challenge (Orland-Barak 2010)
Is it just me, or does this list of characteristics seem familiar? This list is longer, but I would argue that coaches and in particular
instructional coaches need this skill set also. Of course, not all types of coaches need to experts.
Interestingly, Orland-Barak (2010) points out that outstanding mentors display many of the attributes we associate with good transformative leaders; they empower, promote autonomy, raise motivation and encourage reflection. This point of view seems to contradict the (in my view) misconception that mentoring might stifle learning by providing all the answers.
Mentoring might occur naturally in life. You might decide to take someone under your wing, look after them and guide them. A sort of Big Sister who helps and advises a possibly vulnerable or inexperienced other. An example might be in single parent families where, for a example, a mother might ask a male friend to "mentor" their teenage son.
Mentoring occurs in two ways:
informally ......
either at work or generally in life
typically a person would be free to choose their mentor and indeed whether they wanted a mentor
there would be no set agendas or goals determined by people outside of the mentoring relationship

I imagine the informal mentor to be like Dumbledore or Hagrid in the Harry Potter books. Both take Harry under their wings, guiding and helping where necessary. Hagrid's purpose being to help Harry with the day-to-day e.g. shopping for the new term. Dumbledore, on the other hand, strives to help Harry realise his potential and destiny.
this is typically to help people with either work or study
there is likely to be fixed goals, which may or may not be set by the mentee
the agenda would be set by people outside the mentoring relationship or by demands dictated by circumstances e.g. needing to complete an assessed assignment
the mentee may not have opted to be part of the process
the mentoring may be part of a formal review or assessment procedure
All of the above factors could potentially lead to tension between the mentor and mentee (more on this later)
http://www.thestrengthsfoundation.org/3-tips-for-clarifying-what-you-can-offer-as-a-mentor (accessed 04/01/2013)
I struggled to find a diagram that I felt represented all aspects of what a mentor does. This illustration highlights to me the importance of the mentoring relationship and the quality of dialogues, by the fact that it is quite succinct; it all hangs on the quality of the interactions.
Orland-Barak (2010) describes what a mentor session could look like in a new teacher education setting:
the mentor might set the aims of the session
the previous meeting might be revisited as a way of connecting experiences
the mentor would ensure the conversations focused on the aims and would be careful not to diverge too many topics
the session would include reflective feedback
expectations for the next session would be agreed and planned

This is an example of a record sheet used to record conversations between mentors and trainee teachers within the scheme I work for:

Assignment 3
Subject Day 5: Subject Knowledge Enhancement

Standards to be addressed:

PROGRESS ON TARGETS SET (N.B. Including evidence of how the subject specific training from last week impacted on your teaching this week and feedback from other teaching colleagues.)

SUBJECT SPECIFIC TRAINING BY MENTOR (Including an opportunity to discuss how GPS and central subject training sessions relate to your own subject specific needs.)

DEVELOPMENTAL TARGETS SET (N.B. You should refer to strategies or techniques learnt from your subject specific training, including mentor sessions, which you intend to use in your teaching.)


Additions to Standards log

These are important events or
deadlines that serve as reminders
The record serves a number of purposes:
it helps us ensure consistency across the scheme by requiring all mentors to follow a similar pattern of dialogue
it provides a tick-list of important things to discuss
it helps ensure that the trainee reflects on progress
it helps ensure that the mentor focuses on how the trainee can make progress (related to subject knowledge and how to teach)
it also provides us with evidence that the trainee has received training (just in case we are inspected or a trainee claims not to have had mentor support)
It also aims to help the trainee collate evidence for their Standards Log
There is, however, also an element of assessment here as the mentor is required to comment on the progress the trainee is making. Our mentors (as in most Initial Teacher Training schemes) play a vital role in assessment. A fact which colours the relationship between mentor and mentee to an extent and occasionally leads to tension.
Although the mentor and mentee have a formal meeting once a week, the mentee frequently seeks out the mentor for advice and help on a need basis. This helps to build a good relationship quickly.
Corney and du PLessis (2010), in their journal article on youth mentoring, claim that there is a tendency in literature to conceptualise mentoring as the guiding of a younger or less experienced person by someone who is older and more experienced. They describe this classic form of mentoring as both hierarchical and deficit-based. "That is, it assumes that the mentor has some quality - age, experience, skills, material or social advantage - that the mentee lacks (Corney and du Plessis, 2010:20). This deficit-based model is evident in a range of contexts including business and education and is reflected in the formal mentoring examples I have described thus far. However, Corney and du Plessis (2010) recount an example of informal mentoring stemming from a work environment.
Interestingly, whereas coaching (with the exception of instructional coaching) was placed towards the non-directive end of this spectrum, mentoring could fit anywhere along the length of the spectrum and, in my view, do all the things listed. Mentors working in teacher education, encourage reflection in their mentee as well as model good practice and set specific targets.
Young male apprentices working in the Australien building trade were asked to select several people from their personal lives who to become mentors. These people were described as "significant others". It was felt that informal mentoring systems of this nature were more appropriate for young men and they were more likely to seek and accept help (Corney and du Plessis, 2010). "Informal" mentoring utilises the supportive networks formed naturally by young people" (Corney and du Plessis, 2010). Findings revealed that young people mentored in this way were more likely to complete education or training, have higher self-esteem and were less likely to engage in risk-taking behaviour (Dubois and Silverthorn, 2005 cited in Corney and du Plessis, 2010)
I can see that the informal mentoring style is well suited to working with young people in particular, and personally I think it has a lot of scope for future development, particularly when we are dealing with potentially vulnerable groups. It is already widely used in schools with pupils mentoring (or coaching) other pupils. In my opinion this style of mentoring is very close to our classic understanding of what mentoring is in the Mentor-Telemachus story, so perhaps we are returning to it's origins and recognising the strengths.
I do sometimes worry about what some of our younger inexperienced mentors might be saying to their mentees - are they really qualified to advise? Perhaps the fact that the mentee is actually verbalising concerns and fears to another person and talking is the most important thing.
In an article on a mentoring project amongst social workers, I came across an interesting variation of mentoring termed as "nested mentoring" (Fouché and Lunt, 2010). The project involved several mentoring pairs of both hierarchical and peer nature. The project incorporated university project teams. various social work agencies and numerous teams of social workers. Mentoring relationships were formed between academic staff and practice teams, between practice teams allowing for peer mentoring and between practice teams and network agencies. The mentoring was at times linear, but also "nested" allowing for a fluid and dynamic system which could respond to needs of all participants at any stage and resulted in heightened quality of mentoring conversations.
I can see that to be involved in this type of set up could be hugely rewarding and enriching, and might bring about sustained change and development, but I imagine the funding (in terms of time and fiances) would be considerable and not readily available to all.
let us have a look at a couple of definitions for coaching...
So far I have focused on WiiFMs (What's In It For Me) from the perspective of the client or organisation, but it is worth mentioning that coaches and mentors often report personal gains from being a coach or mentor:
being a coach or mentor in the work place can make you into a better practitioner (van Nieuwerburgh)
being a coach or mentor encourages us to analyse our own practice and make changes (Allison and Harbour, 2009)
being a coach or mentor can foster personal growth, high levels of satisfaction and reward at being part of a genuine learning community (Dobie, Smith and Robins, 2010)

Based on my own experiences of working with mentors and trainees, I agree with all of the above. The coach or mentor is constantly being exposed to new ideas and ways of approaching things as well as being required to evaluate their own practice. This is extremely enriching, as well as being a personal confidence boost. I would also add that communication skills are often improved. For the institution as a whole, it can only be a good thing that employees find reward and stimulus in this type of role.
The word "coach" has its origins in the sixteenth century and refers to a carriage or vehicle used to convey valuable people from where they are now to where they want to be. Today we can relate this to helping people achieve a goal for example in a sport, in work or in life.
The creator of this video claims that there are around twenty coaching errors in this clip! These are the ones which struck me in particular:
the coachee was totally unaware of the coaching session, the aims or the reasons for it (clearly this does not get the relationship off on the right footing)
the coaching seems very badly planned and not thought through
the coach is not available for support or questions after the session
the coach immediately focuses on the negative - I'm going to help you with something you are not good at.
the questioning is often leading and the coach puts words in the coachee's mouth
the coach is not listening attentively and looks disinterested
the coach talks (brags) about himself and would appear to criticise the coachee
the coach affirms a negative opinion the coachee has of himself
the coach gives the coachee random tasks of no significance to complete and accuses him of NOT LISTENING when he is asked to repeat them
Summary of distinction between coaching and mentoring:
At the start of this journey, I had thought that I would accumulate quite a list of distinctions between these two terms. In reality I have found far more overlaps than differences.
My initial thoughts led me to believe that coaching was very non-directive and that mentoring was more directive, but I have found that both can be both or neither. In general, I suppose most coaches are facilitators rather than instructors, but this is not always so as we have seen. Good mentors in my experience and based on my reading, are not only experts passing on knowledge, but also facilitators who help clients find solutions to issues themselves. This varies depending on the situation and skill of the mentor. If I were to generalise, I would say that in most formal mentor relationships the agenda is set by the mentor (or organisation) and in most coaching relationships the agenda is set my the coachee, I know that there are exceptions.
In both coaching and mentoring the relationship is of paramount importance and the skills required of the coach and mentor are very similar. Some people (Allison and Harbour, 2009) claim that coaching is about asking and mentoring is about telling, but I disagree. I base this on my personal belief that a good mentor does not simply give the the mentee all the answers, (although sometimes they might and they could), but challenges the mentee to come up with solutions and ideas themselves. Both mentoring and coaching are about unlocking potential, but only one is also concerned with providing expert knowledge. (The exception is instructional). If I were pushed, I would say that the formal mentor role is the more challenging; not only do you need to have all the same skills as a coach in helping the client to find solutions to problems, but you also have to be an expert and be prepared to lead by example.
Formal mentoring tends to be hierarchical and often goes hand-in-hand with assessment, but this is not always so as we saw in the case of the nested mentoring example. Coaching is mostly non-hierarchical, but I suspect this is not always true when coaches come from within an organisation. Mentoring was sometimes linked to friendship in my reading, but coaching never was. This seems strange given the link between mentoring and assessment / hierarchy. Is it to do with offering advice and guidance that makes us perceive a mentor as a friend?
The question of whether one should choose mentoring or coaching is dependent on the situation. For most clients there would not be a choice - if you were open to coaching / mentoring, you would probably be glad of either. Formal coaching seems to me to be more concerned with improving performance in a particular area, whereas mentoring is a more general way of providing support, guidance and possibly instruction. Coaching seems to be for a more limited period of time, but formal mentoring appears to go on for longer. In some successful relationships the mentee can keep returning to the mentor for advice for many years.
In finishing my prezi, I would like to mention what I consider to be tensions in mentoring and coaching as this is an area that interests me and which I would like to explore in my next assignment. All of the points below could have a major detrimental affect upon the coaching/mentoring relationship and in turn on the effectiveness of the provision:
cost implications for organisations can affect provision of adequate mentoring and coaching staff
enough time to spend with the client is a recurrent issue. This was highlighted in my reading (Dobie, Smith and Robins, 2010) and reflected in my own experience
element of choice: clients rarely have a say in who their mentor or coach might be
element of choice: clients might not wish to be coached or mentored leading to resistance
the conflict between the directive and non-directive approach in sessions
the question of who sets the agenda
the hierarchical nature of some relationships
the issue of assessment and how it affects the relationship
the experience or training of the coach/mentor.
Allison, S and Harbour, M. (2009) The Coaching Toolkit: A practical guide for your school. London: Sage
Connor, Mary (2012) Coaching And Mentoring At Work: Developing Effective Practice. [online]. Open University Press. (Accessed 2 January 2013)
Corney, T and du Plessis, K. (2010) ‘Apprentices’ mentoring relationships :The role of ‘significant others’ and supportive relationships across the work–life domains’. Youth Studies Australia Volume 29 Number 3 pp 18-26
Dobie, S., Smith, S., and Robins, L.,(2010) 'How Assigned Faculty Mentors View their Mentoring Relationships: An Interview Study of Mentors in Medical Education', Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning, 18: 4, 337 — 359
Fouche, C. and Lunt, N (2010) ‘Nested Mentoring Relationships: Reflections on a Practice Project for Mentoring Research Capacity amongst Social Work Practitioners’ Journal of Social Work 10(4) 391–406
Knight, J. (2004). Instructional coaches make progress through partnership: Intensive support can improve teaching. Journal of Staff Development 25(2), 32-37.
Orland-Barak.L., and Hasin, R. (2010)’Exemplary mentors’ perspectives towards mentoring across mentoring contexts: Lessons from collective case studies’ Teaching and Teacher Education 26: 427–437
Rogers, Jenny (2012) Coaching Skills: A Handbook. Maidenhead: Open University Press
Spokane Public School (2004) ‘The Instructional Coaching Model’ www.plcwashington.org/coaching/.../spokane-SD-coaching-model.pdf
Stone, Florence, M. (2007) Coaching, counselling & mentoring: how to choose & use the right technique to boost employee performance 2nd Edition. New York: American Management Association.
Whitmore, J (2012) Coaching for Performance. London: Nicholas Brealey Publishing

Additional Sources:
van Niewerburgh appears on Youtube talking about young people coaching in secondary schools (accessed on 29th December 2012)
(accessed on 29th December 2012)
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Subject Knowledge for Teaching
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