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Career Doctor: Why is coaching and mentoring so important?

By Peter Cullen FIML

One of the greatest privileges and sources of satisfaction for a manager is to become a coach or mentor. It’s always a privilege to have someone demonstrate their trust in you and there’s nothing more satisfying than witnessing someone achieve a desired outcome. It can have a profound impact on the individual, the manager and the organisation.

Often coaching and mentoring are mistaken for being the same thing with a different name. They are in fact, very different.



When is it coaching?

Coaching is typically provided by an immediate manager to help people develop competencies, new skills and self-awareness. It also assists in improving performance and equips the coachee for new responsibilities and professional development. Importantly, it is 100% coachee-focused, open and honest. When coaching, the coachee must think of potential alternatives, determine solutions, confirm goals and take ownership, responsibility and accountability for outcomes. On the coach’s side, you spend around 80% of the time listening and 20% asking open, probing and expansive questions to stimulate the coachee to develop and confirm their next steps.

What is a good coaching model?

A very simple and popular model for coaching is GROW: goal, reality, options and wrap up. Goal is the agreement on the specific objective of the conversation. Reality is the discussion around your past and current state. Options involves creatively thinking about potential solutions. Finally, wrap up confirms the best solution set against a plan that includes follow-ups and timing of completion stages. Although GROW appears linear, you may find the need to move backwards and forwards between the steps as more information is provided.

Can coaching be informal?

While coaching can be formal or informal, following a structure leads to lasting results. For instance, if a direct report often comes to you with a problem and you happily provide a solution, that’s informal coaching. Being time poor, you might feel satisfied that you were able to provide a quick solution. Unfortunately, you are also teaching this person to come to you for answers instead of thinking for themselves. This is an ideal situation for the quick and effective use of GROW. You may also use GROW formally during performance discussions, professional development or when helping team members consider potential career aspirations.



When is it mentoring?

One difference between coaching and mentoring relates to who mentors you. Unlike coaching, a mentor is typically someone you do not report to or know, is several positions more senior and has broader experiences and knowledge in your field. It is important to have a safe, trusting and confidential environment knowing you can speak openly about your concerns and desires. Many companies also provide mentoring programs that give you access to mentors in other organisations or you can source one through colleagues, networks and business associations. Details of IML ANZ’s mentoring program can be found at

What makes a good mentor?

Good mentors ensure the relationship is goal-oriented, focused on you and have your best interest at heart. They will happily share wisdom gained from their personal and professional experiences and guide you to build capability in areas that match your goals. The very best mentors will invite you to reshape your thinking and consider the bigger picture as part of their commitment to help you.

Coaching and mentoring are vital and valuable skills that add a great deal of depth to your role as manager. It allows you to develop individual and team capability while nurturing an open and honest environment built on a foundation of trust. Importantly, acquiring and using these skills not only benefits the coachee but increases your value as an asset to the business.

Peter Cullen is an education and training facilitator. He conducts three-day programs that engage participants in developing and implementing their capabilities as managers and leaders.

This article originally appeared in the February 2019 edition of Leadership Matters, IML ANZ’s quarterly magazine.


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