Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 36:243–245, 2015 Copyright © 2015 Informa Healthcare USA, Inc. ISSN: 0161-2840 print / 1096-4673 online DOI: 10.3109/01612840.2015.1002344


Coaching: Comparisons with Mentoring Michelle Cleary, RN, PhD University of Western Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Jan Horsfall, RN, PhD Independent Research Advisor, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

‘Coaching’ and ‘mentoring’ are closely related and often the terms are used interchangeably (e.g., Thompson, Wolf, & Sabatine, 2012). Coaches and leaders are similar in that they communicate in a genuine and authentic fashion, act with integrity, foster hope, inspire others, and assist in developing a positive shared vision for the future (Hicks & McCracken, 2011). Coaching and mentoring are therefore both potentially valuable processes in relation to providing support, building confidence, improving interpersonal skills and enhancing performance. While there are some distinctions between coaching and mentoring, both are likely to promote personal, as well as professional growth, strategise to achieve learner determined goals, and work through transitions of a learning or professional nature (Clutterbuck, 2008). The coach and mentor draw upon their own significant professional experience, they can be directive or non-directive depending on the person they work with and the situation that has to be addressed, and thus they may give advice at times or support the ‘mentee’/‘coachee’ in clarifying specific principles and actions themselves. Usually mentoring involves an ongoing professional relationship often within the employing organisation (Irby, 2012). Coaching is mostly short-term and focussed on specific performance issues or events (Joo, Sushko, & McLean, 2012). Typically, the organisation allocates and pays for the coach for personnel who are perceived to be more likely to benefit from targeted coaching in a specific domain (Irby, 2012). Coaches are commonly sourced from outside the coachees’ employing organisation and from a different profession. Mentors are more likely to take an interpersonal approach to learning and professional development, whereas the coach will target the achievement of agreed upon goals. A mentor usually incorporates the stages of exploration, new understanding and action planning, whereas a coach has finite engagement with the coachee and has a more targeted professional or work-based focus. Because of their congruent backgrounds, mentors are Address correspondence to Michelle Cleary, School of Nursing and Midwifery, University of Western Sydney, Locked Bag 1797, Penrith NSW 2751, Australia. E-mail: [email protected]

often role models and the mentor–mentee relationship is based on the sharing of knowledge and professional experience to deepen understanding and improve effectiveness (Hicks & McCracken, 2010; Shaneberger, 2008). After distinguishing between the two, Irby (2012) concludes that mentors can coach but coaches do not normally mentor; in other words, mentoring involves a broader more inclusive interpersonal process, and coaching is a narrower goal-oriented activity (Joo et al., 2012). Coaching refers to interventions used by organisations to extend knowledge and develop opportunities for executives, managers or senior staff members (Jowett, Kanakoglou, & Passmore, 2012). Coaching takes place in everyday work interactions, irrespective of seniority level and can include anything or everything undertaken to enhance an individual’s image, skills and performance (Rabstejnek, 2008). A professional coaching relationship involves working with an individual in a collaborative and equal way ‘to facilitate experiential learning and improve functioning and performance, often in the context of working toward specific goals’ (Biswas-Diener, 2009, p. 544). The success of coaching is often contingent on the effectiveness of the working relationship between the coach and the coachee, which may devolve on a cognitive or other type of developmental ‘fit’ between the working pair (Campone & Awal, 2012). A coaching relationship aims for coachee professional growth and improved ability to negotiate and manage competing everyday work demands, thereby assisting in developing management and/or leadership skills. As well as the interpersonal connection between coach and coachee, the coach’s personal qualities feed into the likelihood of success, with the ability to tolerate tension being an essential ingredient (Campone & Awal, 2012); given the lack of actual control one has over another person’s ability to change. Jowett and colleagues (2012, p. 183) explored the content and quality of five coach–coachee dyads’ relationships, drawing on a model comprising ‘closeness, commitment, complementarity and co-orientation’ (3 + 1 Cs). These four key relational components are interdependent. Of the collected data, 32% related to co-orientation – relating to shared knowledge and




understanding, established by open communication channels and goal agreement; 26% related to closeness involving trust and respect; 22% were associated with commitment in the form of mutual goodwill and motivation; and 20% involved complementarity through leading and following roles and other reciprocal behaviours (Jowett et al., 2012). Trust was the essential factor mentioned most frequently by coaches and coachees. Overall, it seems that trust, respect, openness, responsiveness, cooperation and support are important ingredients within the coaching relationship (Jowett et al., 2012). Coaches may be sought externally or be retired senior staff who are able to draw on valuable insights, knowledge and skills relevant to generational planning and development. Consequently, coaches come from diverse professions and industries, and variations exist regarding accreditation and fee scales, as well as the repertoire of techniques utilised (Campone & Awal, 2012). Background disciplines include (among others) organisational or clinical psychology, education or business. These educational foundations are likely to feed directly into the belief systems, approaches and techniques that are brought to bear within the coaching relationship. For example, coaches with a clinical psychology background or experience of therapy, because of familiarity and experience, are accepting and understanding of emotional expression arising from work-based issues and are more likely to draw on emotion-based interventions (Campone & Awal, 2012). When Campone and Awal (2012) qualitatively analysed 67 responses by coaches who nominated life events that contributed to their development as a coach, about half named coaching events; a quarter mentioned personal experiences; and another quarter derived from formal education or professional training. Within these three categories, personal life experiences emerged more frequently than other nominated turning points. The nature of the relevant impact of these seminal events was: (1) grasping a new interpretive framework that enhanced self-awareness and understanding of others; (2) acquiring conceptual or practical knowledge; (3) developing technical and/or behavioral skills; (4) improving emotional awareness and empathic responses; and (5) recognising and affirming one’s own skills and contributions (Campone & Awal, 2012). Should your employer broach the possibility of coaching, it is imperative to determine beforehand what you intend to gain from the process and this should be discussed and re-clarified at the outset to give the relationship a clear focus. The list of potential aims is endless. These could include anything from planning career goals or pathways and determining ways to negotiate these; to developing resources to maintain motivation or inspiration; to acquiring particular knowledge, skills or expertise; or garnering support to navigate workplace relationships and political dynamics (Biswas-Diener, 2009; Rabstejnek, 2008). Given that coaching aims to improve performance, goal-setting is pivotal, as is active involvement, with the coachee taking control of, and responsibility for, their own learning (Moen & Federici, 2012).

It is important that all coaches emphasise accountability, creating periodical communication check-ins, determining deadlines for homework and openly exploring consequences for success or failure (Biswas-Diener, 2009). Confidentiality is also paramount, especially given that the same coach may be seeing staff employed within the same organisation. Trust and respect, clear expectations and goals, feedback, training and resource seeking are all part of coaching, as is challenging assumptions and developing strategies to overcome professional or industry obstacles (Carless & Douglas, 2011). Techniques employed by coaches include: asking timely incisive questions; employing sophisticated communication tools (such as distilled feedback or reframing information); and providing encouragement and positive feedback (Biswas-Diener, 2009). Assisting the coachee to work out what is the right approach to a difficulty based on her/his values and beliefs is also part of the coaching remit (Hicks & McCracken, 2009). Those with counselling backgrounds are likely to bring useful transferable skills, such as effectively developing a working alliance, listening intently with understanding and accepting and acknowledging emotions (Campone & Awal, 2012). Given the hopes and expectations for external executive coaching, Moen and Federici remind us as recently as 2012, that very few randomised controlled trials have been carried out to determine actual outcomes. In their research into the effects of 12 month’s coaching on goal-setting, self-efficacy and intrapersonal causal attributions of 20 Norwegian executives, the anticipated positive changes in the goal-setting dimensions of clarity, strategy, feedback, commitment and difficulty were not achieved. The hypothesis that there would be an increase in deeming internally controllable factors, such as effort to cause workplace improvements were not supported either. Among the three tested hypotheses, only the one pertaining to improved self-efficacy correlating with coaching was sustained by the experimental group (Moen & Federici, 2012). The researchers consider that raised self-efficacy strengthens executives’ belief in their own abilities, which is essential to pursue complex courses of action or pathways for change. Even though measurable comparative improvements were not found within the small experimental cohort, that does not mean that coachees did not gain in ways that were not measured, or that gains were made but they were not statistically significant. Ultimately, it is hoped that coaching will influence job satisfaction positively, enhance personal capability, improve motivation and organisational commitment, and decrease attrition (Joo et al., 2012). The coaching process is collaborative and requires a commitment to ensure effectiveness. The role of the coach is to assist the coachee to explore, develop and achieve her/his own viable solutions (Hicks & McCracken, 2010). In summary, according to Irby (2012), coaching attributes are likely to be: • •

Setting specific goals and working towards these The focus is on performance issues and upcoming events


Coach–coachee relationships because of their action orientation can be short term • Coaches are often drawn from outside the coachee’s organisation and profession. Even though the above characteristics have been nominated to distinguish coaching from mentoring, in professions such as nursing, where there is not an established tradition of the former, the two processes are still likely to be used interchangeably. Coaching can be seen to have relevance for senior nurses who have abilities above and beyond those required in clinical settings, that can be further developed for managerial or leadership roles. Given the range of professions that feed into coaching at this stage, with extra training, mental health nurses may find a niche in this domain and bring strong interpersonal and other skills to bear when working with clients to achieve goals of professional diversification or advancement. Declaration of Interest: The authors report no conflicts of interest. The authors alone are responsible for the content and writing of the paper.

REFERENCES Biswas-Diener, R. (2009). Personal coaching as a positive intervention. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 65(5), 544–553.


Campone, F. & Awal, D. (2012). Life’s thumbprint: the impact of significant life events on coaches and their coaching. Coaching, 5(1), 22–36. Carless, D. & Douglas, K. (2011). Stories as personal coaching philosophy. International Journal of Sports Science and Coaching, 6(1), 1–12. Clutterbuck, D. (2008). What’s happening in coaching and mentoring and what is the difference between them? Development and Learning in Organisations, 22(4), 8–10. Hicks, R. & McCracken, J. (2009). Mentoring vs. coaching – do you know the difference? Physician Executive, 35(4), 71–73. Hicks, R. & McCracken, J. (2010). Three hats of a leader: coaching, mentoring and teaching. Physician Executive, 36(6). Hicks, R. & McCracken, J. (2011). Coaching as a leadership style. Physician Executive, 37(5), 70–72. Irby, B. J. (2012). Editor’s overview: mentoring, tutoring, and coaching. Mentoring and Tutoring: Partnership in Learning, 20(3), 297–301. Joo, B. K., Sushko, J. S., & McLean, G. N. (2012). Multiple faces of coaching: manager-as-coach, executive coaching, and formal mentoring. Organization Development Journal, 30(1), 19–38. Jowett, S., Kanakoglou, K., & Passmore, J. (2012). The application of the 3+1Cs relationship model in executive coaching. Consulting Psychology Journal, 64(3), 183–197. Moen, F. & Federici, R. A. (2012). The effect from external executive coaching. Coaching, 5(2), 113–131. Rabstejnek, C. V. (2008). Personal coaching for business persons: A plethora of choices. Leadership and Management in Engineering, 8(2), 54–56. Shaneberger, K. (2008). Coaching and mentoring your staff. OR Manager, 24(9), 25–27. Thompson, R., Wolf, D. M., & Sabatine, J. M. (2012). Mentoring and coaching: a model guiding professional nurses to executive success. Journal of Nursing Administration, 42(11), 536–541.

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