So it was said in a recent meeting, “We need to do some coaching and mentoring with him”. To which my question was, “Both, or which one should take precedent?”. This was met with a somewhat blank look and the reply, “They are the same thing aren’t they?”.


It’s an interesting thought that over the years I have met and heard many people say that they either don’t know or aren’t sure of the difference between coaching and mentoring, which is why I guess, they tend get lumped together in the same sentence. For this piece I want to focus purely on mentoring and examine exactly what it is and how it can really benefit your charges by preparing them for future challenges ahead.


So, what makes a really great mentor? It is widely accepted that for anyone to mentor you successfully they must have travelled the road themselves that you currently find yourself on. That is to say, they have been there and got the proverbial T shirt. Without that real experience of doing what you are about to embark on how can they really know what you are about to go through  and help , guide and advise you accordingly. They have probably made every mistake in the book on their journey and it’s now their job to ensure that you don’t repeat them.


It’s true to say that some people are just naturally good at helping and teaching others, but it can also be a skill that you can learn. Being able to take what you have learned and impart all that knowledge gleaned from years of toil can be very rewarding for you, your protégé and the company you work for.


The important thing to remember is that you are there to help your protégé develop their skills and knowledge, not tell them what or even how to do it. This can be best done by showing and instructing rather than by doing and demonstrating. In other words, give them the basics and steer them of course, but let them work it out for themselves.


Treat your protégé much like you would treat an infant, inasmuch as, if they ask for you for a few minutes of your time, then give it to them with 100% attention. Children want you to look at a finger painting or drawing and tell you all about it, but they are soon done and will move on – well your protégé is no different in many ways in that they also want to update with you and require you full attention. Resist the temptation to carry on filing or typing and trying to multi-task whilst pretending to listen. If it’s not convenient then ask them to come back at a certain time and make sure that you are fully focused on what they wish to discuss with you when they do.


It can be very hard to watch someone fail or make a mistake especially when you see it coming from a mile away. But we learn from our mistakes and assuming that your subject is not about to career into a ravine you should let them drop the ball every now and then. Your job is to then help them work out why it failed and how to prevent a repeat.


This links nicely with the whole notion of ensuring the subject has the opportunity to chart their progress. Set them goals and targets and give them real examples demonstrating how far they have come and how they have developed and improved. Let them know regularly that they have achieved a certain goal and lavish praise where necessary.


Part of this process is to offer wise and constructive feedback to your protégé. Remember though that you are there to help develop them and their career path – not be their best buddy! Tell them how it is and don’t pull your punches if necessary. Be consistent and honest in your appraisal of their performance.


This is how you can improve their performance. They need to know that you are there for them. Not to fix things necessarily but to help them find the answers and fix their own problems or mistakes. This is especially important when things go wrong. Although you can help them realign and move on, they must be able to rely on your honest judgement and criticism if it is required but also offer up praise in equal measure when it is earnt and deserved.


Inevitably there are going to be times when your protégé cannot cope or they have simply arrived at a place where they just don’t know what to do next. This is where your listening skills are tested to the full. Often by just listening and being the sounding board required they will talk themselves round and actually suggest a solution by crystalising the challenge they are facing whilst articulating the problem to you.


Your job as a mentor is one of the most rewarding things you can do in business. Seeing someone benefit from your knowledge and experience is a pleasure to experience. Knowing that by asking the right questions and listening attentively to them, you have helped someone become a more skilled and rounded individual because they had you as their role model, is really quite something.


At Maguire Training, not only do we offer classroom-based courses and programmes, but we are also proud to offer a versatile and intuitive suite of over a hundred e-learning modules on our website, which covers a range of sales and customer service topics. Have a look at the on-line module ‘How to mentor affectively’, which would be a perfect complement to the new classroom-based course ‘Mentoring Skills’.


If you need further information then you could always call us of course on 0333 5777 144 for a no obligation discussion about your training requirements. Alternatively, simply hit the ‘Contact Us’ on any page of our website at and we’ll get right back to you.


Either way it would be great to hear from you.

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