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Business Coaching & Mentoring For Dummies®

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There was a time when business owners who told colleagues they had a coach or mentor were asked, “Why do you need a coach? What’s wrong with you?” The thinking used to be that if you have a coach, you must have problems you can’t sort out for yourself. Meanwhile, in sports and the arts, it has long been common practice for world-class athletes to have performance and psychological coaches and for stars of stage and screen to have voice and acting coaches.

Fortunately, in the past 15 or 20 years, the coaching conversation in business has shifted. Savvy business leaders are reaping the benefits of having a professional coach or mentor by their side. It’s not uncommon for such leaders to ask each other, “Do you know a really great business coach or mentor?” as they would for any other professional, such as an accountant. Business coaching and mentoring is becoming widely regarded as an essential professional service.

One of the reasons for the growing demand for professional business coaching and mentoring is that today’s business landscape is changing quicker than ever. Who would have imagined 20 years ago the transformations brought about by technology, the emergence of the Chinese and Indian economies, and the global effects of the credit crunch, recession, and depression of the last decade? A lot has changed. Business coaching is all about change, dealing with change, and assisting clients to deliver and adapt to political, economic, social, and technological changes. Business coaching is about supporting business leaders to create businesses that flourish and thrive. A more exciting time to be in business and to be a business coach would be hard to find. The changes in thinking and in the ways business operates mean even more demand for great coaches. You can find opportunities to do great work everywhere.

About This Book

With a combined coaching experience of three decades between us, we (co-authors Marie and Steve) have seen the positive differences that great coaching can have in any business. In Business Coaching & Mentoring For Dummies, 2nd Edition, we share some of that experience and introduce you to approaches, tools, and techniques that enable you to be an amazing business coach or an amazing businessperson equipped to handle changing circumstances.

This book is about inspiring coaching excellence and about encouraging peak performance for the coach and business user alike.

If you’re a coach, read the chapters and use the techniques with yourself first so you not only have a hands-on approach to coaching clients but can do so congruently, knowing that you’ve practiced what you’re coaching. In addition, you get the benefits of making positive changes to your own coaching practice.

We include mentoring in the book’s title, so if you’re a mentor, this book is for you, too. Mentors use the coaching skillset and can apply many of the models described in this book. The difference is that mentors are often sharing specific knowledge and skills from their professional area of expertise. For more detail on the distinctions between coaching, mentoring, and other helping professionals, see Chapter 1.

If you’re a business owner or entrepreneur, or you’re reading this book because you want to self-coach or you’re simply curious to know more about coaching, read the chapters and practice the techniques as if you’re being coached.

To help you navigate this book and use it as an easy, accessible reference, keep in mind the following:

Foolish Assumptions

We’ve written this book with two readers in mind: the professional coach and the businessperson. We’ve also made a few assumptions about you, whether you’re a coach or a businessperson:

Icons Used in This Book

All For Dummies books use distinctive icons to draw your attention to specific features within a chapter. The icons help you to quickly and easily find particular types of information that may be of use to you:

businessowners If you’re a business owner, or you simply want to get better at business, pay attention to this icon. Here you’ll find information geared toward your interests.

tip This icon highlights a practical tip to help you with a technique or your coaching practice.

remember When you see this icon, we’re highlighting a valuable point that you’ll want to remember. It saves you from underlining or using a highlighter pen as you read, but feel free to highlight key points as you go through the book.

example Nothing makes a point better than a real-life example, so we include some of our own coaching experiences, not to impress you but to impress upon you the ideas we’re trying to get across.

warning Every once in a while, you may want to do one thing when it would actually be better to do the opposite (or to do anything at all). We call attention to these situations with the Warning icon.

technicalstuff This icon contains a more detailed discussion or explanation of a topic; you can skip this material without missing anything.

Beyond the Book

In addition to the material in the print or e-book you’re reading right now, this product also comes with some access-anywhere goodies on the web. Check out the free Cheat Sheet for tips on keeping your business coaching practice running smoothly, a checklist of tasks to do before and after a coaching session and a list of questions to help you keep your work and personal life in balance. To get this Cheat Sheet, simply go to and type Business Coaching & Mentoring For Dummies Cheat Sheet in the Search box.

Where to Go from Here

The Monty Python team has a wonderful sketch about an Olympic event. When the starting pistol fires, the contestants run off in all directions.

This book can be read in just the same way; it’s not meant to be linear with a start and a finish line for you to cross. Browse through the parts and chapter headings and see what you’re attracted to. Feel free to explore the pages and dip into what seems most relevant to you in the moment. Think of each chapter as a tool that serves a purpose in its own right. You don’t need to read the book cover to cover, although you may find yourself compelled to do so because each tool adds up to a complete and comprehensive toolkit.

Part 1

Getting Started with Business Coaching and Mentoring


Discover the distinctions between different models of coaching and mentoring, and understand how a coach can train to meet the differing needs of a wide variety of clients.

Find out how to demonstrate added value to clients and ensure that they understand that coaching is a worthy investment.

Adapt coaching and mentoring for individuals, groups, and organizations.

Explore some of the best coaching methodologies and how to work with a wide range of differing business categories and business needs.

Chapter 1

Navigating the World of Coaching and Mentoring


check Understanding why businesses need coaches and mentors

check Distinguishing coaching from mentoring

check Knowing how to develop as a business coach or mentor

check Looking at professional requirements

Business is about people, organizations are complex systems, and business and people are codependent. We need to move fast to deliver effectively and efficiently. Our digital world is connected in real time 24 hours a day. This reality takes its toll on the capacity of business leaders’ ability to think and reflect. When human beings don’t take the time to think things through, we make poor decisions, become less effective, and can become lousy managers. We can lose perspective on what’s important in our personal lives, too. We start communicating with colleagues, family, friends, and associates like we’re speed dating, taking just long enough to get the bite-size essentials to filter for yes or no. Constantly matching our relationships to the speed at which we receive information and are expected to respond isn’t sustainable. We’re a social species — we need to relate, to be motivated, to create, and to have our contribution acknowledged by ourselves and others.

Coaching and mentoring are a late twentieth-century preemptive gift from the gods, designed with twenty-first-century living in mind. The value of business coaching is well documented, with studies on return on investment (ROI), engagement, motivation, and innovation linked to coaching and mentoring. Businesses that have used coaching over a number of years see it as an integral part of their talent development strategy with both disciplines weathering the storm of recession. It’s lonely at the top, and when people are lighting fires under your feet, you want someone you trust to help you gain clarity and perspective. This input is the added value that a coach or mentor brings.

In this chapter, you discover some of the professional fundamentals of coaching. We outline the roles at play in organizational coaching and mentoring, filling you in on the distinctions between these and other helping professions.

Spotlighting the Business Benefits of Coaching and Mentoring

In her research looking at 106 studies on organizational mentoring, professor Christina Underhill found that organizational commitment, job satisfaction, self-esteem, work stress, and perceptions of promotion or career advancement opportunities were statistically significant for those who had been supported in their careers through informal mentoring compared to those who had not. Mentoring in this context refers to ongoing career support from a more experienced colleague.

Similarly, a study conducted in 2011 by the Institute of Leadership and Management asked 200 organizations why they used coaching. Here’s what they said:

The strongest individual benefits were increased self-awareness, increased confidence, and improving business knowledge and skills. The report highlights that the key organizational outcomes were improvements in leadership, conflict resolution, personal confidence, attitudinal change, motivation, and communication and interpersonal skills.

In short, coaching and mentoring make a tangible difference in how leaders lead in business.

Defining Coaching and Mentoring

At their simplest level, coaching and mentoring are conversations where insight and learning take place. The offer a space to slow down and make time to think, and they give leaders time to open up to possibility and maybe think differently.

A few nuances are apparent in the definitions of coaching and mentoring. In reality, a lot of overlap is evident, and the boundaries can get fuzzy in the business context. The following sections describe just a few definitions to help you understand the nuance.

Coaching is the art of co-creation

Coaching as we know it has been informed by a raft of disciplines, including psychology, sports training, organizational development, behavioral science, sociology, and therapy. Sports coaching had the biggest influence in developing leadership and business-related coaching with early coaching looking at the concepts of focus, developing excellence, and high-level personal and team competence in the late 1970s and 1980s.

There are myriad definitions of coaching. We define it as follows:

Coaching takes place on a spectrum from short and medium shifts in performance to significant life transformation. This sometimes requires a metaphorical demolition truck to pull down old patterns of belief and behaviors before co-creating new thinking and building blocks for growth. Oftentimes consistent, regular, focused dialogue with a sprinkling of gentle challenge and a bag full of coaching tools is enough.

We see the role of a coach as

  • A co-creator — a facilitator and thinking partner who helps clients develop, appraise, and crystallize ideas
  • An unconditional supporter who deals with a client’s real-time life issues without judgment
  • A sounding board when a client needs a listening ear
  • The holder of the mirror when a client finds it difficult to see himself clearly

Coaches help clients to

  • See possibility
  • Gain clarity
  • Develop clear intentions
  • Work on specific aspects of business to create great business
  • Work on what they want to create in living a successful life “on purpose”

Key professional bodies maintain this holistic view of the whole person. They mostly embrace the personal and professional.

According to the Association for Coaching, executive coaching is

A collaborative solution-focused, results-orientated, and systematic process in which the coach facilitates the enhancement of work performance, life experience, self-directed learning, and personal growth of the coachee… . It is specifically focused at senior management level where there is an expectation for the coach to feel as comfortable exploring business-related topics as personal development topics with the client in order to improve their personal performance.

businessowners Business owners often expect a coach to provide solutions and have all the answers. When you’re considering recruiting a coach, remember that no one knows your business better than you do and no coach or businessperson knows all there is to know about business. Think of the coaching relationship as a collaboration where the coach is there to question, to guide, to challenge, to chide, and to assist you in achieving your desired outcomes. The coach is not there to do the work for you. Be open-minded to being challenged to experiment. In Chapter 7, we offer tips and suggestions that will help you to create just the right mind-set so you can get the most from your coaching program.

Mentoring is the art of imparting wise counsel

The work of a mentor is differentiated from coaching in that a mentor regularly shares her particular professional wisdom and experience with a mentee. It tends to be more specific and focused around a particular area of work or personal development. A mentor offers counsel on specific problems that a mentee brings and may share contacts, advocate on behalf of the mentee during his career, and help him make useful connections.

The European Mentoring and Coaching Council defines mentoring as

A developmental process in which a more experienced person shares their knowledge with a less experienced person in a specific context through a series of conversations. Occasionally mentoring can also be a learning partnership between peers.

Mentoring is used when a client needs

  • To learn a specific skill
  • To acquire particular knowledge
  • Wise counsel from a more experienced critical friend

remember Note that the phrase is a critical friend, not a critic friend. A critical friend is someone who is invited to offer constructive advice and is willing to express the things you may not want to hear, but does so, because she cares and wants to be of service. A critic friend offers unsolicited advice and comes from an all-knowing, all-wise perspective, and the criticism is not always constructive. If you want to be a critic, maybe you need to look for a role in political or artistic journalism.

Distinguishing coaching and mentoring from therapy

Coaching isn’t therapy or counseling, although some of the methods, models, and techniques used in aspects of coaching are derived from these modalities. Anyone involved in a coaching or mentoring relationship needs to understand what coaching and mentoring are and are not.

Anthony Grant, a coaching psychologist at Macquarie University, highlights the difference between coaching and counseling simply:

Coaching deals with clients who are functional. They want to improve their performance in a particular aspect of life. The emphasis in coaching is less on unraveling and understanding problems and difficulties, and more on focusing on finding solutions. It is very future oriented. Coaching does not deal with clinical issues, such as depression or high levels of anxiety; for those you need to see a doctor.

The same distinction applies equally in mentoring. You’re dealing with the present and the future with your clients, rather than inviting them to recline on a chaise longue while you delve into their psyches in a parody of Freudian analysis.

In thinking about the distinctions, make sure you consider the professional roles that people commonly take in settings where people are being supported to learn. Table 1-1 describes the different roles in coaching and mentoring. It also highlights the distinction between facilitation and counseling.

TABLE 1-1 Dimensions of Coaching and Mentoring


Relationship to Learner


The Narrative

Organizational sponsor


Invested in and supporting long-term career direction

Three to ten years

Creating succession in an organization or profession

“I will take a long-term interest in supporting, promoting, and tracking your career.”


Wise counsel/senior yet collegiate

Knowledge and experience gained over a number of years in specific professional area

Months to years

Sharing exemplars of knowledge and experience to support an individual or group and to plan for and meet particular outcomes

“I will use my wisdom and long-term experience in a specific area to help you minimize mistakes in delivering in similar circumstances.”

External coach

Challenger/facilitator of self-insight and business/personal/career development

Three to 12 months

Using a range of tools to equip an individual or group with skills and capabilities to achieve client-generated outcomes

“I will use my specialist skills to support you to gain clarity and confidence to maximize your contribution.”

Leader who coaches

Hierarchical with personal interest in outcomes

Ongoing management

Uses a coaching style of leadership to support individuals and groups to deliver overall outcomes that the leader is responsible for delivering

“I will engage you in determining how you deliver against required organizational objectives and empower you to take the right action.”

Facilitator of learning



Shares skills and knowledge to enable an individual or group to learn a specific skill or acquire knowledge using a range of learning methods

“I will help you deliver in your role more effectively by using my facilitation skills to teach you what I know or the skills I have.”


Supportive listener

Months to years

Uses an identifiable approach to help an individual, couple, or family make sense of their historical and current experience to learn new life management strategies

“I will support you to develop and sustain a better relationship with yourself and others.”