Do’s and Don’t’s of coaching and mentoring

Do’s and Don’t’s of coaching and mentoring

What’s the difference between coaching and mentoring, which should I use in my business, and when?

I was impressed by the thoughts of Gary Cattermole and his perspectives on coaching and mentoring. As a business mentor who utilises a range of coaching techniques, I am often asked about the value of, and the difference between, mentoring and coaching.

Coaching and mentoring can reap huge results in all sizes of organisations. But how to make it work effectively? Here is an excellent list of the Do’s and Don’t’s of coaching and mentoring based on an article from Gary of The Survey Initiative, and additional commentary from me.

Coaching for performance

1) Never use coaching as a solution to a remedial issue……

It has to be entered into willingly by the coachee. If you have an employee who is not behaving as they ought, tackle it as a disciplinary issue, coaching is not the alternative ‘avoidance’ route.

2) Never force a coachee to work with a specific coach

The fit has to be there for the trust to build.

3) Have a clear understanding of what coaching is (behaviour change)

It is distinct from both mentoring (learning & skill development) and counselling (emotional support). Both sides may not understand the differences and could be expecting something different from coaching.

4) Mentoring v. coaching – which is best?

Gary suggests “mentoring is often used for junior and middle role positions, whilst coaching is beneficial for those in more senior roles. Usually a blend of both methods is used – with a weighting towards one. This does not mean you should not coach junior roles, only it might be less effective as they may have less inner knowledge to exploit – which pure coaching draws upon.”

Much of my mentoring practice concerns sharing learning and experience to individuals in leadership and senior positions in client companies. In fact offering different options to overcome challenges.  As sector specialists they look for alternative viewpoints on opportunities and challenges, more on strategy than tactics. And then they make their decisions.

5) Start with a good set of ground rules

The level of confidentiality that will exist needs to be agreed. Breaking this fundamental rule would impact on the employer/employee relationship (if coaching takes place internally) by causing a breakdown in trust and confidence between both parties. Similarly if external advisers like myself are used as mentors there should be an agreement on the level of confidentiality before any assignment commences.

6) Have a clear idea of the problem that needs to be solved

This means a start and end point can be identified; and evaluate how much coaching or mentoring can help to achieve the ultimate goal. Draft a mentoring agreement, objectives, duration, frequency and budget.

7) The focus of coaching must be on what the individual has decided they want to focus on

Otherwise it will never be a success. Mentoring can assist more on what the manager has identified a skills gap or lack of experience. Many directors and managers are “time poor”, they utilise proven and trusted mentors to provide guidance to key individuals.

8) The employer needs to ensure that the coaching and mentoring relationship is working

Gain feedback from the individual to ensure their needs are being met. Surveys can also be used to monitor the extent that managers are using the coaching approach in their day-to-day, one-to-one and team management style.

9) How to measure the success?

Often the evidence of effective coaching is anecdotal. However, it is still very useful to collect qualitative data to share positive success stories throughout the organisation.

For mentoring, there can be evidence in the form of outcomes that arise from the application of learning.

10) Offer time for coachees to self-evaluate their experiences

It can sometime prove the most effective way of measuring results.

11) Where possible find mentors and coaches who are professionals, and independent

Pick a professional business mentor, who is independent and objective, has experience and knowledge to share, and is paid to work on your behalf, in fact your own personal business adviser.


About us

Billy Linehan Is an experience business mentor and trusted adviser having worked with the directors and owner managers of hundreds of Irish businesses. Currently he is mentoring company leaders in a wide range of businesses and  sectors – horticulture, environmental consultancy, fashion, technology startup, construction specialist contractors, e-commerce, light manufacturing – as well as undertaking consultancy assignments.

What is common in all these companies is that the focus is on individual leaders and managers, enabling them to become more effective in their roles, and supporting higher performing teams by

  • giving clarity to staff, a sense of purpose in their roles
  • have the necessary skills to deliver what’s expected (and agreed)
  • ensure they do not lack the time, tools, and authority to remove barriers or perform optimally
  • focus on motivation. If motivation is low, individuals become lethargic. They display little extra effort, because the consequences for going that extra step are ambiguous, meaningless, or even counter productive


Billy has gained experience of coaching methodologies, as an employee,  a business coach and as a participant on change management programmes. The learning he offers can include commitment based management, feedback and consequence models as part of  his work with individuals and groups.

He is a business mentor for a choice group of state funded agencies, a Certified Management Consultant and a Fellow of the Institute of Management Consultants and Advisers of Ireland.


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