Mentoring and coaching



Mentoring is a long established and well regarded technique for supporting the personal and professional development of individuals' careers.

Mentoring involves a more experienced person (the mentor) who shares their knowledge and experience with someone who is less experienced (the mentee), in a relationship based on mutual trust. This relationship, and the role of mentoring, can be defined as:

The provision of assistance by one person to another, in a relationship of trust away from the immediate work environment, that effectively enables the recipient to learn, develop their abilities and enhance their potential in line with personal objectives.

The growth of mentoring relationships in NHS informatics is seen as a key way of supporting the development of the skills and competencies of the informatics function, and of helping the function to be fit for purpose in meeting the varied challenges it faces over the next five years.

The aim of the mentoring toolkit is to function as a useful addition to local mentoring programs and training courses, as part of a concerted effort to foster a mentoring culture in the NHS.

The benefits of mentoring

Some of the diverse benefits of mentoring relationships are outlined below, showing that strong mentoring relationships can support a wide range of development needs for both mentees and mentors, and consequently, help to increase the professional capability of the NHS informatics function.

The benefits of having a mentor

Careers in NHS informatics can be both challenging and rewarding. A mentor can help to give guidance and support as challenges are faced, assisting mentees in negotiating challenging situations with increased confidence.

As part of this role, mentors can;

  • help mentees develop greater self-confidence and increased motivation, through assisting with increased self-reflection and understanding.
  • focus mentees on key aims and objectives, which can support and develop a mentees' personal development plans.
  • help mentees to develop key managerial competencies, such as using strategic thinking, problem solving and influencing skills, and how to begin to apply these in the workplace.
  • help to orientate mentees who are new to NHS organisations, which are usually complex in structure. Mentors can also increase organisational knowledge through sharing their understanding and experiences.
  • provide invaluable advice on career progression and advancement, and guidance on the importance of building networks.
  • enable a dedicated focus on personal and professional development which contributes towards Continuing Professional Development (CPD) for both mentees and mentors.

The benefits of being a mentor

Taking on the role of a mentor can lead to the following benefits for an individual;

  • increased job satisfaction, motivation and self-esteem, and recognition from staff and management for their mentoring skills.
  • personal satisfaction from contributing to the development of the mentee, and in seeing them learn and progress through their assistance.
  • significant skills development and refinement, including improved interpersonal and influencing skills, as well as encouragement to remain up-to-date with professional and technical issues that the mentee may be experiencing.
  • the provision of "thinking time" and interaction with mentees who may have different views on the organisation, thereby leading to healthy discussion over key organisational issues.
  • building relationships with people at different levels and often in different disciplines of the organisation, thereby increasing both interpersonal relationships and organisational understanding.
  • as mentioned above, a contribution towards CPD, as mentoring is an effective development tool for mentors.


Coaching is a shorter term role than mentoring; it tends to be task/project focused with the line manager coaching a member of staff towards achieving a specific outcome.  Coaching helps individuals improve their performance and skills development, for example, helping staff with learning needs related to a task.

There are many styles of coaching, below are some examples. You may wish to consider which is most suitable for your needs.

Checklist: Where a coach gives guidance on what the person needs to do to improve their performance and where the person is accountable for achieving the agreed actions.

Skill/will matrix: Where managers are guided on the best approach to take when coaching team members. The skill is the experience, training and understanding of the individual and the will refers to their motivation, confidence or desire to do it. The skill/will matrix is the original work of Hersey and Blanchard.

Grow: A model sequence to follow when coaching.

    • Goal - the questions you ask to establish the short, medium and long term aims
    • Reality - exploring the current situations and discussing obstacles
    • Options - where possible solutions are explored
    • What - is to be done next? Where the coach and coached agree the action to be taken and make a commitment to carrying it out.

A detailed explanation of the GROW model can be found in John Whitmore's book "Coaching for Performance".

Co-active: Based on the belief that a person has the answers and the coach helps to unlock that person's potential to achieve their goals. As coaching is about working in partnership, co-active coaching requires active participation from both the coach and the client. Details on this coaching model and the skills and techniques can be found in "Co-active Coaching" by Laura Whitworth et al.

Mentoring v Coaching

Although similar techniques are employed in both coaching and mentoring, the main differences are:

Mentoring Coaching
Concerned with implications beyond the task Task focused
Focuses on capability and potential Focuses on skills and performance
Outside line management relationship Primarily a line manager role
Agenda set by learner (mentee) Agenda set by or with coach
Emphasizes feedback and reflection by the learner Emphasizes feedback to learner
Longer term relationship Addresses a short term need
Feedback and discussion primarily about implicit, intuitive issues and behaviours Feedback and discussion primarily explicit


NHS Connecting for Health has developed a mentoring toolkit to help support the growth of mentoring relationships in the NHS informatics function.

Mentoring networks:

The Innovation Network East Midlands (TIN) also lists a set of useful guidelines for mentors and shares the personal experiences of one NHS mentor.

The Institute of Healthcare Management offers e-learning to members on mentoring and points to other agencies that promote mentoring.

The European Mentoring and Coaching Council has a UK branch, which organises conferences and provides support for mentors including a code of ethics.

Coaching services:

Further Information

There are many books available on mentoring and coaching. Examples include:

  • The Good Mentoring Toolkit for Healthcare, by Helen Bayley et al. (2004)
  • Coaching and Mentoring in Health and Social Care: The Essential Manual for Professionals and Organisations, by Julia Foster-Turner (2005)
  • Coaching and Mentoring: Practical Methods to Improve Learning, by Eric Parsloe & Monika Wray (2000)

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