What is Coaching and how is it different from Mentoring?

Coaching helps someone else develop their own approach / solution to an issue that they are facing. On the other hand mentoring is about giving advice, making suggestions and sharing experiences. A mentor draws on their own personal experiences and can act as a sounding board or a guide. Coaching on the other hand is focussed firmly on the future and helps individuals find their own paths. A coach will ask neutral non-leading questions and gives feedback.

What are the benefits of coaching?

As an individual coaching can help you in many ways, a few examples of the benefits of coaching are:

  • improved performance
  • improved focus
  • development of specific skills or behaviours
  • improved engagement/motivation
  • greater clarity in role to improve impact
  • solutions to work-related issues
  • direction setting
  • improved confidence
  • maximizing your strengths, passion and purpose and building on your values.

As a business offering coaching to your employees also has its benefits:

  • talent development / retention;
  • improved engagement / motivation; and
  • increased performance and productivity.

More businesses than ever are now offering mentoring and coaching as a “benefit”.  75% of organisations offer coaching or mentoring to their employees.

How to coach someone else? The GROW Model

The GROW Model assumes that when you are in the role of the coach you are not an expert but acting as a facilitator and helping the person select the best options, and not offering specific advice or direction. However, if the person you are ‘coaching’ is for example a member of your team it is likely that in addition to helping them draw their own conclusions you will also have knowledge to offer.

You can also use this model for some self-coaching.

GROW stands for:

  • Goal.
  • Reality.
  • Options.
  • Way Forward (or W5 questions).

You will then work through these steps:

1. Goal: What is the Goal?

Create or define the goal. The goal should be a SMART goal (one that is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound). By creating and defining the goal you will have something to work-towards. You should also consider what needs to be done to achieve the goal and what successfully achieving this goal will look like.

2. Reality: What is your current reality?

Describe the current reality. Before you can solve an issue or problem or reach a goal you need to work out what the starting point is and check if you have everything you need to charge full steam ahead. This might be considering the current position, what is actually happening? What steps (if any) have already been taken?

3. Options: What are you options?

Once you know what you goal is and what the current reality is you will then be able to consider all the possible options (even the unlikely ones) for reaching the goal. You should look to come up with a list of as many options as possible and then discuss and consider each one.

If you are providing the coaching /facilitating the conversation you may wish to drive the conversation by asking questions like:

  • What else could you do?
  • What do you need to be able to do this?
  • What issues are there if you choose this option?
  • What if this or that constraint were removed? Would that change things?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of each option?
  • What help and support would you need for each option?
  • What factors or considerations will you use to weigh the options?
  • If you run into issues what could be done to address the situation?
  • What do you need to stop doing in order to achieve this goal?
  • What obstacles stand in your way?
  • What option would you choose? What option would your colleague choose?
  • From the list of options which options would you pursue?

4. Way Forward: What will you do next?

Once you have discussed the options you will need to take it a step further. You will need to agree specific actions to move forward towards the goal.

Questions that could be asked are:

  • Who, What, When, Where, Why?
  • What will you do now, and when?
  • What deadline will you set yourself?
  • How can you keep yourself motivated/moving forward?
  • When do you need to review progress? Daily, weekly, monthly?
  • How will you monitor (and measure) your progress?


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