Many people ask me; “What is Coaching actually?”
Also; “What’s the difference between Coaching and Mentoring?”

More people seem to be familiar with Mentoring than Coaching. For instance, when being inducted for a new role, you will receive mentoring from someone who is an expert in that. They will explain what is expected of you, define your role and show you what you have to do / cannot do.

If you look up the meaning of “Coaching” in the Oxford Dictionary, you will be none the wiser what Coaches in this context actually do! If offers two definitions: –

The first mentions a bus used for longer journeys, a railway carriage and travelling.

The second includes sports instruction or training, private tuition and extra teaching.

It might surprise you to learn that the first is more relevant! Coaching is all about a journey and nothing about instruction and teaching and is more about the WAY things are done than WHAT is done.

Coaching delivers transformational results in large measure because of the powerful working relationship that is created, and the means and style of communication used.

The Coachee gains facts and develops new skills and behaviours, not by being taught but by making their own discoveries and realisations from within, stimulated by coaching.

We all have a built-in, natural learning capability that is actually disrupted by instruction. Take a moment to think how this affects you.


The word “Mentoring” originates from Greek mythology, in which it is reported that Odysseus, when setting out for Troy, entrusted his house and the education of his son Teiemachus to his friend, Mentor. “Tell him all you know,” Odysseus said, and thus unwittingly set some limits to mentoring.

Some people use the term “Mentoring” interchangeably with “Coaching”.

However, mentoring is very different to coaching, because coaching is not dependent on a more experienced person passing down their knowledge. In fact, this can undermine the building of self-belief which creates sustained performance. Instead, coaching requires expertise in coaching, not in the subject at hand. That is one of its great strengths.

And something that coaching leaders grapple with most – but is key – is to learn when to share their knowledge and experience and when not to.

Of course, there is a place for Mentoring – where people need instruction on how something works and what is expected of them. Of course, you would not let a new delicatessen employee loose on a sharp cutting tool, without instructing them on its use and health and safety!

Mike Sprecklen was the coach and mentor to the famous all-conquering British rowing pair Andy Holmes and Steve Redgrave. “I was stuck because I had taught them all I knew technically, but this opens up the possibility of going further, for they can feel things that I can’t even see”.

He had discovered a new way forward with them, working from their experience and perceptions rather than from his own.

Good coaching and leading, and good mentoring for that matter, can and should take a coachee / mentee beyond the limitations of the coach, leader, or mentor’s own knowledge.

The demand for HOW we do business has never been greater than it is today.

Now the dot.coms have shaken up the way things have been done and are helping to redefine the relationship between organisations and their employees. In doing so, they are reaching into reservoirs of previously untapped potential and performance.

So, organisations are doing things differently and pledging to provide a meaningful and exciting journey for their employees.

This represents the next evolution of business, the reconnecting of business to its purpose, to its reason for being – after all, don’t all businesses exist to serve a need of some sort?

Since 1992, Coaching has been defined and adopted globally and it is for people who want to apply coaching in their business, whether as a leader or coaching their teams.

However, many people have yet to fully understand the psychological depth and potential breadth of Coaching and where it fits in to the wider social context.

The Coaching profession has expanded and matured beyond all expectations and it is gratifying to see a number of professional associations of Coaching that, in the main, are collaborating rather than competing. And qualification standards and ethics are being agreed and monitored in a very responsible way.

The principles of Coaching can be applied to any type of activity and will have the impact of reaching optimal performance by reducing interference and increasing potential. It also creates a High-Performance Culture, without the pressure and is the new frontier for Coaching and Leadership development.

It is all about our Inner-Game. If you have read Timothy Gallwey’s book; “The Inner Game of Tennis”, you will know that if we can remove or reduce the inner obstacles to performance, an unexpected natural ability will occur, without the need for much technical input from the Coach.

The Inner Game Equation; Performance = potential – interference

The richness of that landscape can turn Coaching and leadership into a personal and unique journey, in which individuals and entrepreneurs appreciate, enjoy and transform their work and lives.

Companies can evolve and transform the lives of their people, if they decide to embark on a company-wide development journey.

There is a time when you will need a mentor; for instance when setting up a certain type of business, system or process that someone else has experience with.

There is also a time for Coaching, for the reasons already stated.

In practice, Coaching fosters evolution at every stage because evolution emerges from within and can never be taught in prescriptive ways. Coaching is not teaching at all. It is about creating the conditions for learning and growing.


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