Coaching and mentoring within an organisation

So, I’m currently undertaking a coaching course. We’ve been set our first assignment to start looking at some of the basics. The first sub-section of that report is:

Define what coaching and mentoring is within the context of an organisation and explain the similarities and differences between coaching and mentoring (approx. 250 words).

So I thought I’d share my current thinking…

One challenge that remains consistent for organisations from across the world is their ability to manage–and cope–with change. It is relentless, affects everyone within the organisation and ultimately determines whether an organisation thrives or crumbles (Drucker, 1994, p.98). Zues and Skiffington (2008, p.37) note that “many current business strategies and competencies are inadequate to meet the rapidly changing global marketplace” which has led to the popularity of coaching and mentoring in the workplace. The key difference between personal and organisational coaching/mentoring is a focus on business performance and operation effectiveness (Association for Coaching, no date).

There is a range of types of coach/mentor e.g. sports coach, counselor, and executive coach/mentor. Whitmore (2009, p.12) describes how his own career in coaching/mentoring blossomed when his (amateur) sporting clients saw the potential for its application within their own organisations. Coaching/mentoring within an organisation does add an extra dimension in that the coach or mentor has to manage a three-way relationship between him/herself, the organisation and the coachee/mentee.

Coaching and mentoring are techniques used to develop an individual’s skills, knowledge or work performance (CIPD, 2013). Good coaching and mentoring has the potential to take the learner beyond the limitations of the coach or mentor’s own knowledge (Whitmore, 2009, p.13). The terms ‘coaching’ and ‘mentoring’ can be difficult to explain because of an overlap in the skills they require i.e. listening, questioning, clarifying and reframing (CIPD, 2013). See Table 1 for an overview of the key differences between coaching and mentoring.

Table 1 Key differences between coaching and mentoring. Information presented in this table has been taken from definitions developed by Megginson and Clutterbuck (2012, p.4); and Whitmore (2009, p.14).

Coaching Mentoring
Relates primarily to performance improvement Relates primarily to the identification and nurturing of potential
Typically short-term in its nature Typically a long-term relationship
Goals agreed with or at the suggestion of the coach Goals may change and are always set by the learner
Coach primarily owns the process Learner primarily owns the process
Does not require knowledge/experience of the subject being addressed Requires knowledge/experience of the subject being addressed


Association for Coaching (no date) Coaching defined. Available at: (Accessed: 13 June 2014).

CIPD (2013) Coaching and mentoring. Available at: (Accessed: 5 June 2014).

Drucker, P. F. (1994) ‘The theory of the business. (cover story)’, Harvard Business Review, 72 (5), pp. 95-104, EBSCOhost [Online]. Available at: (Accessed: 12 June 2014).

Megginson, D. and Clutterbuck, D. (2012) Techniques for Coaching and Mentoring. 2nd Edn. Oxon: Routledge.

Whitmore, J. (2009) Coaching for Performance. GROWing human potential and purpose. The principles and practice of coaching and leadership. 4th Edn. London: Nicholas Brealey Publishing.

Zeus, P. and Skiffington, S. (2008) The Complete Guide to Coaching at Work. Australia: McGraw-Hill Book Company Australia Pty Limited.

Other thoughts

In their book “Coaching and Mentoring: Theory and Practice” Garvey, Stokes, and Megginson (2012) make a very compelling argument, or seem to be–I’m struggling to interpret it, that their is no difference and that any difference is fundamentally determined by the social context. That is perhaps a bit deep for me to really get my head around at this stage but it’s nagging me.

Garvey, R., Stokes, P. and Megginson, D. (2012) Coaching and Mentoring: Theory and Practice. London: SAGE Publications Ltd.


2 thoughts on “Coaching and mentoring within an organisation

  1. Pingback: WEEKNOTE 3/2014 | andystew

  2. I have been seeing someone for a couple of years who has been a rock for me. Looking at your table here he falls clearly into the mentor role and not coach. A critical aspect for me has been his detachment from the business and the focus on me as an individual first and only them the job I am doing. I am not sure I would be comfortable with a mentor from inside the business but I would be for a coach…. Ho hum just a fuzzy thought after a pint 😜

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