Be SMART and GROW your teams

The words ‘to coach, mentor, counsellor and tutorʼ tend to be used as if theyʼre interchangeable. However, coaching, mentoring, counselling and tutoring fit on a continuum.

The focus of coaching is performance-centred. A coach supports the individual to improve — and the key to success is how the individual defines the desired improvement in performance.

A coach is someone who draws from the client what they already have and know. The coach focuses the talent thatʼs already there. The coach need not possess technical expertise but draws such expertise to the fore in the client.

Counselling is person-centred. Mentoring is profession-centred — so itʼll deal with a person as a sales manager, for example. A mentor is likely to have subject matter expertise and expertise in the clientʼs specialist field.

Tutoring is focused on a specific task. So, engaging in coaching will also involve you in elements of the other three activities. A tutor is task-orientated and will give the client things to do to draw out whatʼs required.

Blurred Boundaries

The boundaries are blurring between coaching and mentoring. Coaching tends to focus on a short- term task. The coach drives the act of coaching, showing the client where s/he is going wrong. With mentoring, the focus is on making progress and this process may last a lifetime. Itʼs the learner who drives the mentoring process. The mentor is there to help the learner work out the answer that s/he needs.

The GROW Coaching Model

Among the many models of coaching is the ‘GROWʼ process, which can identify strategies that might be useful to a client. Its components are:

  • Goal — what does the client want?
  • Reality — whatʼs the current position?
  • Options — what are all the options that the client faces?
  • Who, what, where and so on – strategies and tactics for achieving the goal.

This is an agenda-setting process. Often, the client tries to adopt the ‘WORGʼ process — that is, focusing on the problem, not the goal — in effect, starting with where they are so they can get sympathy.

The Sports Coaching Model

The ‘sports coaching modelʼ is characterised by the ‘high performance pyramidʼ. At the base of the pyramid is ‘Foundation (fun)ʼ; then comes ‘Participation (skill)ʼ, followed by ‘Performanceʼ and, finally, ‘Podiumʼ.

As the client moves further up the pyramid — towards being a world champion — s/he needs to re-discover what s/he finds ‘funʼ about what s/he does. All achievements must rest on the foundation of ‘funʼ. Thatʼs the ‘buzzʼ that everyone needs.

A variation on the high-performance pyramid is:

  • Physical (at the base of the pyramid)
  • Emotional
  • Mental
  • Spiritual

Physical well being is as important as anything when it comes to achieving top performance.

A Third Coaching model

This model comprises:

  • Identity — the client ‘discoversʼ who they are and decides if theyʼre determined to be a champion.
  • Values and beliefs — the client answers the questions, ‘do I believe that I can succeed?ʼ and ‘does it matter?ʼ
  • Capability and know-how — itʼs not the coachʼs job to be concerned with the clientʼs ability to ‘do what they doʼ.
  • Behaviour — in order to be a world champion, you have to be a ‘naturalʼ but everything else in your ‘make-upʼ has to be ‘as oneʼ.
  • Environment and context — the world in which the client operates.


We all have mentors at different parts in our lives but a coach focuses on a particular part of your life — such as your business life. A coach should challenge you, stretch you and help you to grow, developing your skills to help you get to where you want to be.

A top sportsperson can have several coaches — each one of which focuses on a particular aspect, such as fitness or mental preparation. When a sportsperson performs badly, their first thought may be that theyʼre not good enough and they should give up.

“That happens in business, too,” adds Hugo Heij. “Thatʼs where a coach is valuable — to challenge this and help the person draw out the lessons from that bad experience that helps them succeed next time.”

Coaching Formula

Tim Gallwey wrote a bestselling “Inner Game” series of books outlining a methodology for coaching and the development of personal and professional excellence in a variety of fields.

Among other things, he offers a formula for coaching of “P = p — I”, where “P” is performance, “p” is peopleʼs potential to perform, which is unlimited, and “I” is interference. So the key to successful coaching is to remove interference. This suggests that, while teaching anybody anything involves putting stuff ‘intoʼ a personʼs head, a successful coach should be taking things away.


A mentor is a person who helps someone to learn and achieve their full potential.

Mentoring is a partnership; a confidential relationship; a positive developmental activity and should provide objective insight. Because itʼs a confidential relationship, a clientʼs line manager shouldnʼt be her/ his mentor.

Mentoring isnʼt a process intended to undermine a line managerʼs authority. Itʼs not about forming a secret society; nor is it judgemental, hierarchical or imposed. Indeed, where mentoring is concerned, the client is responsible for driving the learning, while the mentor is merely there to help.

Engage in Learning has designed two courses specifically on how to use the GROW model to coach. In this series of courses you will learn how to set effective and ‘SMARTʼ goals when setting out to coach individual staff members and how to establish a sound coaching relationship using the ‘GROWʼ model strategy.

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