By Jean Polster, Leadership Coach and Consultant

Coaching and Mentoring to Support Teachers - Erasmus+ course

Many leaders and teams seek coaching at some point in their professional journey. It is important to determine what support you are looking for, and find the right individual as a coach.

In my leadership coaching practice I have discovered that coaching can mean many different things to those seeking services. “Coaching” can be viewed as consulting (What should I do?) and/or mentoring (Can you share your experience and support me?). Coaching can also resemble counseling (or “job therapy”) because of the focus on self-improvement.   

A comparison: 

  Coaching  Consulting  Counseling  Mentoring 
Who receives?  Individuals, Teams  Individuals, Teams  Individuals, Families  Individuals 
Primary focus  Client journey of self-discovery with goal setting and behavior change to meet personal and organizational goals  Expertise to make recommendations for problem solving and organizational improvement  Communication and support for client self-discovery and healing  Sharing of information in a supportive relationship 
Role of supporting individual, (coach, etc.)  Individual/team goals and action steps for self-improvement in professional role  Recommendations on specific actions the individual or organization can take  Insight and healing  Mentee achieves greater knowledge in their role with a supportive individual 

(Adapted from The Completedly Revised Handbook of Coaching; A Developmental Approach by Pamela McLean) 

All of the relationships above can be short or long term. Coaching can also involve individual or team assessments, and supervisor or peer feedback. 

Think about what you are really looking for. Coaches have a wide variety of levels of training and approaches. Are you looking to strengthen your own skills and/or those of your team (coaching)? Are you experiencing a business problem and need solutions (consulting)? Do you want to connect with someone who has “been there” to support you on your journey (mentoring)? Some coaches blend approaches. It can be frustrating to connect with a coach and then not receive the type of support you are looking for.   

If you have an opportunity to select your coach, you should interview two to three different individuals to see who is the best fit for you. This “chemistry call” can confirm that the coach’s approach matches your needs at this point in your professional journey. Ask about their focus and how they approach their work. Also, would you feel comfortable talking candidly with this individual? Coaching is a powerful tool for professional development when all involved are aligned. ◼