At the IEC we often receive requests for “a coach or mentor”.   Part of my role is to help our clients understand exactly what it is they are after.  There is a lot of confusion between these two terms and they are often used interchangeably, even though they are very different interventions.

The role of the mentor is to provide insight, and to guide and advise you in your development to reach your highest potential.    Mentors typically assume the role of the wise adviser based on their own personal/professional experience and may act as a mentor on long or a short term basis. The mentor is not usually responsible for an individual’s performance, but through experience can help fast track their learning, provide valuable insights, and support them to avoid the pitfalls in their current or new role.

An executive coach gives people the freedom to use their talents, skills and experience – while at the same time ensuring clear goals are in place and outcomes are achieved.   Executive coaching is a collaborative relationship that uses an adult  learning framework.  A coach asks the right questions to help executives and business professionals identify and remove those interferences that limit the expression of their full potential.  While a coach’s own experience may help them to understand the counterpart’s context, this understanding is not essential.  A good coach will work on the assumption that the best advice and solutions lie within the counterpart.   Another distinction, is that Executive coaching is a three-way relationship between the coach, their counterpart and the counterpart’s organisation.

Which one do you need?

If in doubt, please give us a call and we would be happy to discuss the finer points of these two services with you.

Alex Ford – Client Services Manager


The Bus Dynamic…

This morning as I went to step onto my bus, a guy suddenly appeared and jumped on ahead of me. He was carrying a large bottle of coke, half full and given his high spirits for 8am – I suspected there was something more than coke in the bottle!  It was one of those awkward public situations, where you know everyone is aware of something or someone, outside the norm – but we’re all just going to pretend we’re not looking or haven’t noticed! After annoying a few passengers via different means, eventually this guy went up to the driver… here we go I thought… and was pleasantly surprised when rather than ‘tell him off’ the driver just had a chat until they got to his stop – maybe another 5 mins down the road.  When I got to my stop I decided to give the driver some feedback…  “I just wanted to say I thought you handled the situation with the passenger earlier really well” to which he said thanks and seemed pleased about.  So why am I sharing this story? I guess the situation was really interesting for me on a number of levels…

Firstly – the dynamic on the bus when people just don’t want to get involved always interests me – There are situations like this in the work place, as well as in public – you might witness a bully, someone behaving badly – everyone knows that it might be an issue worth confronting but no one wants to say anything!?  This can be particularly detrimental when it’s a leader who is seen to be avoiding action.  One of the biggest issues we hear from clients in relation to managing poor performance – is that leaders don’t!  There is a lack of skill and confidence among leaders in the business to address poor behaviour and staff engagement survey results that we see, suggest the impact of this on performers in your business should not be underestimated.

The second thing that I reflected on, was my own emotion in giving the driver the ‘feedback’.  I did think he handled the situation well – but even in giving that simple piece of feedback to the driver I felt emotion – like a nervousness.  This surprised me and prompted me to consider that if giving a stranger a small piece of praise can trigger emotion so quickly it’s no wonder that giving negative feedback is such a challenge for people in organisations world wide!   Through our programs on ‘giving and receiving feedback’ we recognise that confidence is often a key issue.  Providing a few simple frameworks for having effective feedback conversations, usually gives people enough confidence to start addressing issues they may have otherwise disengaged with.  Are people ignoring issues at your workplace because they don’t have the skills or confidence to have effective conversations?

On Tuesday this week, I attended an exciting meeting in Melbourne that one day in history may be seen as a significant event in the development of the practice of organisational coaching in Australia.

The event was the 13th meeting of the Standards Australia Coaching Guideline Working Party (which coincidentally was on the 13th July) and I had arrived in Melbourne on a flight with 13 passengers in total on-board. Well, the number 13 must indeed be a lucky number because on this day, meeting attendees held for the first time a full draft of the Coaching in Organisations Handbook, planned for release later this year.

What an momentous occasion! When the IEC first joined this  group a year ago, I would not have believed that a group in Australia that consisted of coaching provider organisations, purchasers of coaching services, professional associations and bodies, educational institutions could come together and work on a project that would foster such collaboration and openness and produce a helpful guideline for organizational coaching at the end of it. I feared a year ago that coaching in Australia was still too fragmented, too competitive and not mature enough to be able to produce a valuable product. I am so pleased my fears were not realized and the project has been one of education, stimulation, challenge and togetherness.

Ann Whyte from Whyte & Co has lead this activity from the very beginning and Michael Cavanagh from Sydney University has certainly burned the midnight oil as the principal author. At this meeting, we also received input from two well-known international guests, Professor David A Lane from the Professional Development Foundation and Sunny Stout Rostron, Director of the Manthano Institute of Learning based in Cape Town.

The next steps are to finalise the draft and then undertake an extensive socialization process with the broader coaching community. The IEC will be active in this process too so look out for more information and updates from us.


Read Julie’s full bio here: Julie-Anne Tooth, Senior Executive Coach

At the IEC we have a pool of great minds and wealth of varied experiences across the team. From day to day coaching sessions to life lessons and business decisions (good and bad) – there’s a lot to reflect on. We are also in touch with the wider coaching community in the Asia Pacific and hope to be able to keep you connected via this blog and our website.

This blog features our stories. Mandy Geddes our Training Department Manager oversees the blog and has been the main contributor to date.  We are now turning a new page and contributions will be coming from all members of the team – you will be able to see who has written each new post as we will all sign off!

In many ways having a blog seemed like common sense for our organisation – particularly for our coaches, who engage in reflective practice as part of their own professional development.  We hope you find the IEC blog interesting.  We are also on twitter and facebook and even have our own online community of practice which all IEC Alumni are invited to be part of.  Please leave your comments, questions and challenges here for us.  If you have any special requests or members of the team you’d like to hear from – please let us know.

Thanks and Happy Reading
The IEC Team

There are a lot of different ideas about what coaching is.

Of course, most people think first of the sports coach; inspiring, motivational, helping you to hone your skills, pushing you to do better, and holding the team together. A true executive coach does some of this but not all of this, and that’s what makes executive coaching different.

I’m thinking of this today as one of our coaches just described to me the slightly miffed reaction of a new client who said she didn’t expect to be challenged by a coach…based on her past experience of having a coach, she thought she would receive skills coaching, and advice.

At the Institute we teach that a true coach rarely if ever gives advice; they ask and don’t tell.  They challenge to bring out potential but are not there to prop you up and inspire you.  A good coach helps you to inspire yourself.

What this coaching client was experiencing from our coach was true executive coaching.  What she had received before was what we would call skills coaching; how to do a certain something, better.  Happily, what the client took away was an understanding that in his management role, sometimes he needs to do true coaching, and sometimes his reports need skills coaching from him.  And of course sometimes they just need to be managed, complete with advice.

Understanding the difference, and knowing what management style to use when, can make a good manager great.

But is it really coaching?

An IEC coach told me an interesting story today.  Her client, who had come for career coaching, was stuck in their second session, unable to work out his goal and uninspired by the process of coaching.   Both the client and the coach were getting frustrated as the session was not moving forward.  Then the client said, “Tell me your story – how did you become a coach?”

The coach – being a well-trained IEC coach – said, “Well, that’s not really what coaching is about” and quite right too.  However, in the interests of shifting something in the dynamics, she decided to take a punt…she took a deep breath and launched in.

Mindful of a recent training in mentoring skills for the workplace, the coach told her story with a mentoring flavour; that is as a teaching story, rather than just a nice chat.  At the end of the story the client was happy, energised and ready to go back to his coaching session.  By the end of the session he had identified his goal and had started to explore the various options for achieving it.  And the coach was happy.  Despite the fact that she had gone against her initial instinct (not to tell the story) she had decided to go with the flow and “break the rules” of coaching and in doing so had obtained a great outcome.

The moral to the story?   Sometimes breaking the rules is the only way forward.

And (at risk of creating a mangled metaphor) if a picture can tell “a thousand words”, then perhaps so too can a great thousand words paint a picture.

Get more information about Mentoring Skills in the Workplace.

One of our coaches finished up a coaching assignment this morning, and as you do, reviewed with his client what was different at the end of the six sessions.

At the outset of the coaching assignment this coachee’s biggest fear – in her newly acquired and more senior role – was that she would be forced to compromise her strong personal values in some politically sensitive or ambiguous situations.

As the engagement drew to a close, the coachee reflected on the fact that she had developed the awareness that it was in fact her core values that had got her where she was; realising that they were the foundation of her success in her career so far.  As luck would have it, shortly after starting out in the new role, life had delivered some very real situations for her to work her way through.  In the process of problem solving, planning and reflection, she realised that her values were actually a core strength that allowed her to navigate through some very complex situations and reach highly successful outcomes.  This in turn bolstered her confidence, which was another key area that she had identified to work on.

Her final reflections were that she in fact has far greater confidence in her ability than she had previously perceived, and it is that confidence that enables her to achieve what she does in her role.

Can it be too simple to say that getting clear on our values and then ensuring that everything that we do is aligned with those values can actually deliver the sense of confidence in our ability that we perceive ourselves to be lacking?  I don’t think so.

Postscript: sadly, it is often women who express the feelings that they lack confidence in new/senior roles.  For this reason the Institute has developed our IEC Women’s Program.  Learn more