Why coaching isn’t just for Olympians

Why coaching isn’t just for Olympians

Written by Professional Academy Management & Leadership Tutor, Kathryn Knights

The Rio Olympics has showcased exactly what goal setting, along with determination and focus can achieve. Team GB’s Adam Peaty is a prime example – he broke his own world record and secured a gold medal in the 100m breaststroke final. 

But Peaty’s success is not only a result of goal setting but also of great coaching – and it isn’t just for aspiring Olympians. Here’s the lowdown on coaching in the workplace.

What is coaching?

Coaching is a way of developing people's skills and abilities. It’s also a great way of boosting performance.

The difference between coaching and mentoring

The terms coaching and mentoring are often used interchangeably, but there are some key differences between the two approaches:

  Coaching Mentoring

Coaching is task and performance oriented e.g. speaking more articulately. Once the coachee successfully acquires the skills, the coach is no longer needed.

Mentoring is relationship and development oriented e.g. improving work/life balance. Its purpose is to develop the individual not only for the current job, but also for the future.


Coaching is short term. 

Mentoring is always long term.

Coaches need not have experience of the coachee's field of work.

Mentors are experienced in the same field of work as the mentee.


Line managers can coach their direct reports.

Line managers cannot mentor their direct reports.

Style Coaches ask 'powerful' questions but do not offer or give advice.

Mentors provide direction and advice. They often ‘open doors' for mentees.

Design Coaching does not require design. Coaching can be conducted almost immediately on any given topic.  Mentoring requires a design phase in order to determine the strategic purpose for mentoring.

Working out whether you need a coach or a mentor

If you want to improve a specific area e.g. you want to speak with greater confidence or have better impact as a leader — then you need a coach. A coach focuses on short-term development, with emphasis on enhancing current skills or on acquiring new ones. A coach does not share their personal concerns or experience; instead they use methods to enhance the coachee’s understanding of their own self.

If you want general guidance and support to prepare you for your next career steps – then you need a mentor. A mentor focuses on long-term development and there is mutual interaction and exchange of best practices between the mentor and the mentee. The mentor shares their life and work experiences. They also offer advice, support, and guidance.

The benefits of having a coach

A coach will ensure you reach your career potential and they’ll also:

  • Make you more accountable – we all have limiting beliefs and patterns that hold us back and prevent us from fulfilling our true potential.  A coach will push you beyond your limits.
  • Get you results – your time is precious. Often when we do things on our own we take the long route, rather than the smart route.  A coach can get you to your destination as efficiently as possible, saving you time, frustration and stress.
  • Help you learn about yourself – through receiving continual feedback a coach will help you to discover more about yourself. They will see patterns in your behaviour that impact on your performance e.g. limiting beliefs, the way you interact with others or your body language. A coach will share these patterns with you so that you can change them.
  • Give you greater self-confidence – we often hold ourselves back because we don’t have the belief or confidence in ourselves.  A coach will take you out of your comfort zone and help you realise that you do have the confidence to succeed.

The essential skills of a coach

A good coach doesn't see themselves as an expert able to fix all problems and having all the answers. Instead, they see themselves as supporting the process of learning. Other key skills include:

  • Emotional intelligence
  • Empathy
  • Rapport
  • Communication
  • Questioning
  • Active listening
  • Feedback

Still not sure?

In today’s workplace it’s essential that both managers and leaders can coach their teams; not only to develop their own skill set but to produce high performing groups of people. On the flip side, being a coachee is one of the best ways to realise your own potential. So, move over Adam Peaty – it’s time to create your own version of Olympic success.

If you need further advice, contact me on my website or Linkedin.

Professional Academy offer a range of Management & Leadership Training as both bespoke in-company training with the option of accredited CMI qualification pathways and management & leadership qualifications for individuals looking to progress in their management career. Why not contact us today to see if we can help you with your personal development as a manager and a leader?