Coaching and Mentoring for Managers


What’s the Difference?

The need to do more with less, to be more productive, is an all too familiar reality for many a business worker. And as a manager how can you strive to hit your organisational targets and raise efficiency by getting the most from your team? Here we look at how in particular coaching and mentoring skills (which can also be learnt and practised on one of our mentoring courses London) can be a real game changer, the differences and appropriate situations to deploy them.

The difference between mentoring and coaching
Mentor your team for top productivity

Your Team

As a manager, it’s useful to consider the following variables: “Have I given my team the skill and the will to do their jobs?” The will: their attitude towards the work – good? Excellent! They’re happy to do a good job.

What about the skills required? You may have team members with plenty of will, but their skill level is lagging behind. What do these people need? Some personal development… A variety of methods exist such as; training, mentoring or coaching. Any one of these could be the right method. Let’s talk about mentoring.

Hail Odysseus!

What do we mean by the term ‘mentor’? One definition is ‘an experienced and trusted adviser’. To understand its origins, it’s time for some Greek mythology: One day, the great hero Odysseus was visited by his friend Achilles: ‘Odysseus, grab your sword and shield. Helen of Troy has been kidnapped, and the king wants us to go and get her back. We need to be on a ship leaving in about 20 minutes.’ This gave Odysseus a dilemma – he had a son Telemachus, too young to go to war. Luckily, Odysseus had an old friend, whose name you’ll never guess:  Mentor! So, Odysseus left his son Telemachus to be looked after by Mentor, while he went away to war.

How does mentoring work?

Who’s involved? A mentor and a mentee. We assume that one of the parties has knowledge and experience to share. In this case, it’s the mentor.

A mentor has been there and got the T-shirt. Structured or unstructured? Whatever it needs to be – this will be decided at the start. Regular meetings, or perhaps on an ad hoc basis. The duration of the relationship? As long as both parties are still happy and it’s productive, it could last for decades. Many companies have mentoring programmes, where the mentors are listed on the intranet, and the mentees choose their mentor.

 And what about coaching?

Tips for improving mentoring skills at work
Use mentors to improve team performance

There are an awful lot of ‘coaches’ who aren’t coaching – they’re mentoring others, or even training them. In coaching, we need a coach and a coachee. It’s usually more structured than mentoring and runs over 5 or 6 weeks.

But here’s the problem for many ‘coaches’ – when coaching, which party has the knowledge to contribute? If you truly are coaching, then it’s the coachee. A coach’s role is simply to ask questions. The coachee has ideas or knowledge buried within them – they just don’t know it yet.

The coach’ job is to ask thought-provoking questions, designed to bring those ideas out. All modern coaching models are question based. So in a coaching conversation, who should be doing most of the talking? The coachee! Sadly, there many ‘coaches’ who, having asked the question, will also answer it! Goodbye coach, hello mentor!


At work, we need to help people to learn and develop. A great start is with a coaching approach, asking others what they would do. However, if the answers are ‘dunno, dunno, dunno, will you just tell me?’ perhaps it’s mentoring time? With these skills and the commitment to develop them you and your team can make a real impact to the productivity of your organisation.

Mentoring is one of our management courses in London which were designed to support those in managerial positions.


Becoming a Manager

New to management?

How to take the step from team-member to manager 

Some people are great at their jobs. So great that someone decides to promote them, so they can manage others and make them great too. However, a new manager quickly realises that a whole new skillset is required, if they are going to manage efficiently and effectively.  (We have a number of courses, including the creative problem solving course and emotional intelligence at work, designed to inspire and support a newly-appointed manager.)

A further complication: many new managers end up managing people they already know. This happened to me – my first managerial role involved managing the team I used to be a member of.

Managing friends – can it be done?

Tips for new managers
Move from team-member to manager

Tough messages

If you want the pay rise and the job title that go with being a manager, you must also accept the responsibilities. Your role is to get the best out of your team, by ensuring they are productive and letting them know how they are getting on through effective feedback. Behaviour that is rewarded will continue, so praise them where praise is due. But there’s also feedback that is constructive or corrective.

When it comes to delivering this, most new managers would rather run barefoot over broken glass! This feedback involves delivering difficult messages whilst trying to keep emotions out, and you know the individual never wants to hear what you have to say. However, they most definitely need to hear it. You’re doing them no favours by burying your head in the sand. Oh, he was late again today, but I’m sure he’ll sort it out!

These tough messages need to be delivered in the right way and in a timely manner. Over the last 14 years, I have met too many managers who are desperate to be liked by their teams, to the extent that they are terrified of delivering the difficult messages, and the impact this has on the performance of their team is clear. The truth is that if you’re the manager who wants to be everyone’s best friend, it will compromise your ability to do the job.

So, what can be done?

Is it possible to manage your friends? Yes, but it’s a complicated process. You can’t be their friend any more, but you can be friendly – treat everyone with respect. I had a rule: it’s everybody or nobody. Everybody comes to work on time, or nobody does. No favouritism or victimisation. I hope I was perceived as a fair leader.

Always deliver the tough messages – it goes with the territory. Initially, team members may be a little taken aback, but once the initial shock has subsided they’ll accept that you’re their manager and you’re doing your job. Be consistent in your approach and they’ll accept it even more. If someone has a performance issue which is impacting the productivity of the team, then tackle it. A behaviour that is not discussed will continue – why wouldn’t it? Nobody’s given them any reason to change or correct it.

Finally, use feedback that is evidence and fact-based, as opposed to opinion or judgement. Compare ‘this report is terrible’ with ‘you have made a few mistakes in the report’. The first statement is an opinion, whereas the second is a fact.

So, it can be done. Keep emotions out and be consistent in your approach, and there’s no message that cannot be delivered. Everyone should be able to see what you’re trying to achieve – to help them to be the best they can be.

Good luck – who needs friends anyway?

More could be learnt from Introduction to Management which is a management training course London designed to support new managers.