In the course of more than one conversation with friends, colleagues or clients, this is a common question. Other variants of the question include “So we do mentoring for staff which I guess is the same thing?” or “Yeh, we have a team of more senior people who meet regularly with younger staff to coach them, basically use their experience to guide them on how to do the role well, deal with situations that arise and show them how it’s done best in this organisation”.

In business and education there is established practice on MENTORING. This is where:-

*A more experienced practitioner in the same business or role meets a new staff member regularly (each week/fortnight) and often informally over an extended period of time (often a year)

* The purpose is to address issues, problems, and questions about the mentee’s role within the organisation.

* It is a professional discussion during the course of which the mentor will introduce tips and hints about how to tackle tasks and situations, sometimes examples from the mentor’s experience that demonstrates some aspect of the skills, knowledge or understanding that may help the mentee

* Sometimes the mentor will suggest quick – fix solutions to pressing problems, or specific advice about career development.

* In short, the process is mutually beneficial and can build the “professional capital” of both mentor and mentee, and in turn benefits the organisation; for the mentor he/she is able to build confidence and self – efficacy by sharing expertise, experience and understanding which is held on behalf of other less experienced employees and the mentee develops confidence, greater mastery and their own identity within the organisation.

COACHING on the other hand:-

*Is usually done more formally for a specific period of time (typically 10/12 weeks), and can be carried out by a skilled individual who may not be familiar with the particular business or educational phase of the coachee.

* Is a professional conversation in which the coachee identifies a focus or goal to work towards during the sessions

* Is a more formal process in that the coach may ask the coachee for some information about his/her client before the process starts

* The coach starts the process with a key assumption that the solutions and answers to the issues or the route to the goal lies within the client and the coach will work with him to discover these

* The coach leaves his/her experience, preconceptions and own issues at the door. For the hour spent in the coaching conversation, the coach’s total focus is on what the client wants to say, express and reflect on.

* The power of the process relies on very concentrated listening from the coach and the use of skilful questioning to draw out what the client knows about themselves, their role and what might work

Coaches use a variety of models and approaches. At Affirm we use an Appreciative coaching which starts from developing a clear picture of the client’s unique strengths and values, and from there identifies a “dream” which can be fleshed out with a plan and pathways to achieve it. Many businesses now use coaching as one of their main ways of carrying out line management and for supporting staff development.

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