Coaching and Mentoring

Screenshot 2021-02-03 at 08.58.40

Coaching. By Nick Youngerson.CC BY-SA 3.0.

Read on for Coaching and mentoring: what are they and why would I want them?

Whoever we are, wherever, whenever, we have those times when we just can’t see the path. Too many options? Too few? Not sure what our purpose is, or how to manage competing desires and demands? Worried about an issue or obstacle in our life that we don’t know how to handle, and it won’t shift by itself? We all sometimes contribute to the issue unwittingly through our diehard habits or patterns of thinking; those grooves of seeing ourselves and the world that unconsciously we have worn into furrows over time and believe that they must constitute reality.

In such cases we may be attracted to different modes of support.

Coaching and mentoring are compatible but distinct examples of this.

Coaching provides a safe and confidential space in which coachees can be supported to explore an issue, set an agenda to resolve it, identify and evaluate options, prioritise and commit to actions and decisions. It  is a non-judgemental process through which the coach does not presume to know better than the coachee what they need. It works on the premise that the person who is wrestling with an issue is also the person who holds the key to the solution. I see coaching as a partnership of equals, to which coach and coachee contribute in distinct ways to help the coachee achieve their goal.

Mentoring is more directed and advisory, often performed by someone with greater knowledge or experience who suggests courses of action to the mentee, based on their own expertise. It can be, but is not always, a senior -to -junior relationship in workplace terms. However many students or newer colleagues can also be excellent mentees to those more established by way of greater, or fresher knowledge and skills in a particular domain. An example of this has been seen in some universities in the early 2000s where student mentors served to upskill staff in the use of particular technologies and media with which the students were more familiar.

All my coaching is currently online, partly due to the global pandemic, but also so that I can support international coachees.

How I coach

All my coaching is currently online, over Zoom. Sessions run from 60 to 90 minutes and coachees usually sign on for six sessions, spaced out over a mutually agreed timescale.

The best coach-coachee relationship is friendly and relaxed, while formal and focussed. It is also a sensitive one; built on trust, professionalism, respect, commitment and confidentiality. It also needs the right fit between coach and coachee. So, if someone thinks they might benefit from working with me, I suggest a conversation in which we can see if we have that fit. In it I will explain the nature of coaching, how we will work, check on our mutual expectations and deal with any questions they might have as coachee. All of these together constitute the coaching ‘contract’. This is the agreement we commit to, saying how we will work during our time together.

While my repertoire encompasses a variety of approaches, including creativity and multisensory ones, I make sure whatever I choose is tailored to the learning preferences of coachees, exploring with them, as we go, what works best for them and what they feel open to trying. I provide notes and materials at the end of each session, should they be required, but also strongly urge coachees to make their own notes and set aside time for reflection and debriefing after a session to think about how they will apply what has been explored.

Depending on the needs and experiences of the coachee I may also, with their permission, shift between a coaching and mentoring position. However, my overarching ethos is that the coachee is in charge of setting their own goals and of deciding how they will know they have achieved these. I am there to facilitate that process, not to tell them what they should want and by when.

During our coaching sessions I also make time to check in with the coachee to make sure that what we have agreed to is what is happening. If, at any time, the coachee feels that what they have signed up to is not what they want, they are free to end the relationship. Similarly, if I feel that the coachee has neither the time nor the motivation to commit to the work required in coaching I will also suggest that we cease to work together.

A final word. I work in the field of professional/executive/life coaching – depending on what my coachees most want to explore. I am not a trained therapist or counsellor, however, and if I feel the help you need is beyond what I can offer I will gently redirect you.

Part of a coach’s role is to fulfil a purpose for a finite time and then the coachee moves to new things. Life paths change and sometimes you lose touch.  Sometimes, they are kind enough to tell you later how they are. I was really delighted to have this message out of the blue one morning and Vicky was kind enough to give me permission to share her words.#jump

“I just wanted to say thank you for the coaching we did all those years back, it played an important part in my movement and development at work and I’m so much happier in my role. I am also a life coach now, working one day a week with my own practice, and making money from that. I’m very grateful that you were selected as my coach. How are you? I hope you are still creating positive impact to those around you.” (Vicky Fabbri. March 4, 2022)

So great to hear after time has passed that a) things worked out well for someone and b) that we as coaches have had a small part in it. I feel very lucky with the people I get to coach as well. Here are some more lovely words, from lovely coachees:

“Alison is an inspirational woman, a person who, during my coaching sessions with her, helped me to get to know myself better, uncover my strengths, learn how to deal with challenges and turn the negatives into the positives. There is always a silver lining! I found her to be a stimulating person whose creativity and unconventional approach towards coaching was extremely motivational. She is a truly authentic, charismatic and person focused leader. I remain very grateful for the time and attention that she willingly and generously gave to me. It was a beautiful personal development journey for me. Thank you.” (Coachee)

“I have been coached by Alison for the last 6 months at  […] and couldn’t have asked for a better match. Alison is professional, approachable and a pleasure to talk to. She asked the right questions to allow me to consider my motivations and challenges, and what I wanted from my work and future career, then helped me to work on plans and behavioural changes to steer me in the right direction. She was a great listener who seems to genuinely care about her work and supporting others” (Coachee)

“I was fortunate enough to be assigned Alison as my coach at […] and I enjoyed a series of coaching sessions during my first year in post. The value of having dedicated time and space to reflect on and explore areas of development cannot be overstated, and this value was only enhanced by Alison’s careful questioning techniques, which facilitated my own thought processes and helped build my confidence in dealing with often challenging situations.” (Coachee)

“Alison’s warm, knowledgeable and empathetic style of coaching has been hugely helpful to me in my personal and professional development.  The tools that Alison has suggested have enabled me to reframe my situation and gain a new perspective on both myself and my work.  The vision boarding exercise was particularly powerful in allowing me to visualise and clarify my career goals, and Alison’s input has definitely contributed to my ability to both change career direction and successfully apply for a National Teaching Fellowship this year. “(Julia Reeve 26.8.21)

%d bloggers like this: