Mentoring and coaching: supporting change and transition

Mentoring and coaching are adopted in many, if not all sectors and contexts, primarily to support and facilitate the learning and development of individuals, groups and teams. The NHS South West Leadership Academy offers the opportunity to access both mentoring and coaching across the region, to support those that wish to learn, develop and grow. As a mentor / coach joining the register you will also have regular access to CPD and Supervision that will support you in your on-going practice.

Coaching register can be found here.

Mentoring register can be found here.

In this article, I explore the purpose and benefits of mentoring and coaching, including the role of the client, mentor and coach. It is hoped that those of you already engaged in mentoring and coaching continue to support and those of you that may be thinking about joining the NHS South West Leadership Academy mentoring and coaching register, may take the first step in finding out more.

What is mentoring and coaching?

Mentoring and coaching tend to be often interchanged; both come from a long history of helping people to learn. Today, there is an abundance of definitions and approaches to mentoring and coaching. As the fields of mentoring and coaching have evolved, practitioners and organisations have developed different definitions and interpretations of mentoring and coaching. The diversity of definitions and interpretations can be derived from the range of disciplines associated with mentoring and coaching, such as learning theory, theories of human and organisational development and social psychology. The primary difference is context; mentors tend to have context specific knowledge; therefore, mentoring is often described as ‘coaching-plus’. Mentors and coaches often draw on shared knowledge, skills, competencies and behaviours; mentors tend to have the organisational and contextual experience relevant to the client’s work and career-related system. Many practitioners consider themselves both mentors and coaches. The underpinning philosophies and practices vary dependant on the context, purpose and formality of the mentoring and coaching.

Within the context of leadership development, we might describe mentoring and coaching as a one-to-one learning relationship designed to support individuals with the quality of their thinking, decision-making and growth, facilitated by purposeful interaction. In the leadership context, mentoring and coaching may focus on career and professional development, in addition to psychosocial aspects.

  • Career and professional development focus might include transition, change, navigating the ecosystem system, politics and conflict, stretch and challenge opportunities. This may lead to the exploration of psychosocial needs.
  • Psychosocial focus might include self-identity, resilience, confidence, self-esteem and self-efficacy which may ultimately have positive career and professional outcomes.

Research shows that through mentoring and coaching, clients frequently become more aware of their potential; gain greater clarity about themselves and their ecosystem; and achieve greater self-belief, self-motivation, confidence and support to achieve their aspirations. Critical conversations between the client and their mentor or coach are pivotal in creating shifts in perspective, knowledge and understanding, all of which are vital in the context of leadership development.

The role of the mentor, coach and client

Typically, the client will take primary responsibility for setting agenda, managing own expectations of the relationship, select and bring issues for discussion, be willing to challenge and be challenged, show respect, openness and good humour and fulfil obligations of the relationship not only to the mentor or coach but also to any other third party such as their line manager or programme co-ordinator.   If the mentoring or coaching sits within a formal organisational programme, the client must also understand the purpose and organisational context of the mentoring or coaching, manage his or her own, as well as the mentor or coach expectations, and be clear about the positive outcomes for both parties. Therefore, the client is required to take the initiative, regularly reflect on the process, take responsibility for their own development and embrace change and new ideas. Mentors and coaches might act as thought partners, helping to build the client’s confidence and encouraging the client to find his/her own solutions.

What are the benefits of mentoring and coaching?

The benefits and outcomes associated with mentoring and coaching are widely documented through empirical studies, theoretical and practitioner research.

Mentoring and coaching help people to make transitions in their career, providing a vital source of personal and professional support, particularly in challenging and complex environments. A recent large-scale mentoring impact evaluation study, conducted over the last three years, supported the position that mentoring helps people adapt and act in empowered ways, bounce back from adversity and cope with excessive challenges (Youth Business International, 2018).  The global study found that there was a significant increase in mentees’ confidence, self-awareness and decision-making; with the support of their mentors, mentees were able to adapt and continue to make progress towards their goals.

Successful mentoring and coaching relationships enhance personal and career development. Mentoring and coaching can help and support clients to manage their learning to maximise their potential, develop their skills, improve their performance and become the person they want to be. Mentoring and coaching are increasingly viewed as an individual learning and development tool for wider use directed at individuals with a wide range of abilities and needs, although ownership of learning and personal commitment will be expected of all clients irrespective of the type or context of the programme.

There is clear evidence to suggest that mentoring and coaching are of mutual benefit to clients, mentors and coaches. Generally, mentors and coaches, regardless of background or position, gain awareness of how people from different backgrounds or situations perceive and experience the world around them. As mentors and coaches gain a heightened understanding and appreciation of people, who are different from themselves, they develop their knowledge and skills to better support others. Thus, mentoring and coaching are a two-way relationship with mutual benefit. Mentors and coaches can gain huge satisfaction in supporting others and are often energised by the experience to want to contribute more and become a life-long advocate and supporter within the mentoring and coaching community.

Successful mentoring and coaching programmes benefit all stakeholders, clients, mentors, coaches, sponsors, organisations and wider society.

Dr Julie Haddock-Millar


Julie is a Senior Practitioner Accredited Coach and Mentor (EIA) and Master Practitioner Coaching and Mentoring Programme Manager (IPMA) with the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC). Julie is an Associate Professor (Practice) of Human Resource Management, Visiting Professor at the International University of Monaco and Senior Teaching Fellow at Middlesex University Business School. Julie is a Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), Member of the International Mentoring Association (IMA) and Advisory Council Member of the Harvard Business Review (HBR). Julie is the EMCC Global Group Lead for the International Standards in Mentoring and Coaching Programmes (ISMCP). She is currently supporting with the development of the Global Team Coaching Professional Standards with EMCC Global. Julie has worked with several national and global organisations to develop and evaluate their mentoring and coaching programme practice. She is the preferred mentoring partner for MSF (Doctors Without Borders) Mentoring and Coaching Hub. Julie successfully guided MSF MCHub to achieve the Gold Standard for their EMCC Global ISMCP mentoring programme accreditation.

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