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; attending a Mentoring training course, or attaining mentoring or coaching skills by other means. 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.