Review of Coaching and Mentoring in Health and Social Care: the essentials of practice for professionals and organisations


Foster-Turner has produced a book that provides an excellent introduction to the fundamental principles of coaching and mentoring, some frameworks for application and some key tools and techniques that the coach-mentor can use to coach an individual to successfully accomplish their goals. She also provides some valuable advice on the establishment of organisation-based coaching and mentoring programs and some industry-specific commentary on the progress of coach-mentoring to date.

Summary of the book

The author introduces the topic by presenting a broad context for the adoption of coaching and mentoring in the health and social care environment and explaining that increasing demands for services, coupled with diminishing resources and the need for ongoing performance monitoring of services, is creating an environment of work that is not only unstable, but one that also challenges quality of life and job satisfaction for people working in these sectors.

She says that broader, non-industry-specific literature on organisational learning and the development of relationships (particularly those within a coaching and mentoring arrangement) are demonstrating positive results in many workplaces. In making this point, she draws on the work of Hall and Kahn (2002) who suggest that this kind of relationship development in the workplace helps people to cope with ongoing uncertainty and changing demands. This argument seems to be further supported by some findings from the Work Foundation on Coaching’s (1999) report which states that 70% of ‘leading organisations’ use coaching in the workplace. They purport that the greatest benefits are the fuller use of individuals’ talents and their performance against set goals and targets. A report released by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (2004) is also discussed in relation to the findings of a survey that indicates that coaching and mentoring in the workplace has been linked to increased effectiveness, skills development, tangible benefits and better performance against ‘the bottom line’.

The Health and Social Care environment

With regard to the Health and Social Care environment in particular, the author refers to a number of National Health Services (NHS) publications that discuss the value of coaching and mentoring as a framework for enhancing organisational learning and life-long learning for workers; thereby building the system’s capacity to meet its defined objectives. She states that whilst mentoring has been used in the Health and Social Care environment for some time, to enable staff to develop specific work-based skills, the introduction of the NHS ‘Skills Escalator’ (2001) and the NHS ‘Knowledge and Skills Framework’ (2004) has ‘…emphasised the need for structured development and performance-focused support, which in turn places considerable demand for coaching and mentoring and on developing the requisite skills to provide this.’ (pp 7)

With regard to meeting this demand, the author states that in the NHS Health and Social Care environment, ‘… coaching and mentoring have tended to be associated with senior management and with specific management courses,’ (pp 8) and she points to an unmet need for coaching and mentoring of people working at the middle management level. She seems to suggest that this unmet need may be a reflection of organisations’ common beliefs about what coaching and mentoring actually is.


From this point, she makes a distinction between the two; stating that mentoring is essentially the act of transfer of knowledge from a highly experienced person to a person of lesser experience, whilst coaching is essentially the provision of an environment that enables the coachee to achieve specific goals of their choosing. She also defines coaching as a focus on the achievement of specific and short term goals, whilst mentoring is more concerned with the long term development of the person. Finally, she coins the phrase ‘coach-mentoring’ by drawing upon the following definition which she cited in the Oxford School of Coaching and Mentoring Journal (2001): ‘To help and support people to manage their learning in order to maximise their potential, develop their skills, improve their performance and become the person they want to be.’

Coach-mentoring frameworks

The author then presents a framework for engaging in and managing the coach-mentoring relationship, in three phases:

  1. Initiating the relationship through a series of meetings and clarification of the person’s goals and timeframes;
  2. Developing the coach-mentoring relationship, including a shared understanding of where the mentee is now and where they would like to be, developing a plan for ‘how to get there’ and following through on that plan; and
  3. Reviewing progress at designated points and adjusting plans as required.

It is in the second phase – the development plan – that the author presents two approaches the coach-mentor can take. The first of these is to use the ‘GROW’ model which is based on the identification of the mentee’s goals, the reality of their current situation, the options available to them, and the identification of the various options that the mentee will / will not follow through on. This model, she suggests, is conducive to the practice of reflective technique which allows the mentee to slow down their actions, organise their thoughts and then proceed toward the chosen course of action. The author also suggests that the ‘3D approach’ may also be helpful during this development phase, particularly when problem-solving in situations that require an urgent response. This approach requires the client to slow down, organise their thoughts, and then move in the direction of their chosen action.

Coach-mentoring skills

The author also acknowledges that the successful application of any of the coach-mentoring frameworks is contingent on the coach-mentor’s skills, and she suggests that the best starting point is for the coach-mentor to be self-aware, to separate their own needs from the needs of the client, and to clarify the underlying values and beliefs of the mentee and to understanding their particular learning style.

In defining learning styles, the author refers to Kolb’s (1984) model of the learning process which purports that new learning starts with a particular experience, followed by the learner’s reflection and interpretation of this experience, the concepts and rules that the learner forms to prepare for similar experiences in the future, and the active experimentation that the learner engages in to ‘try out’ their newly-formed explanations and rules. The author also suggests that Honey and Mumford’s (1983) categorisation of learning styles (into ‘activists’, ‘reflectors’, ‘theorists’ and ‘pragmatists’) is helpful for developing self-awareness and for progressing the coach-mentoring relationship.

Second to self-awareness, says Foster-Turner, is the need for the coach-mentor to have well developed communication and relationship skills. Such skills are dependent upon the coach-mentor’s capacity to establish two-way communication with the client, a deep understanding of the complexities and risks associated with communication, an understanding of non-verbal communication, the capacity to listen and understand, to respond appropriately and to ‘be there’ by placing their full attention on the mentee.
The third key coach-mentoring skill, according to the author, is an understanding of the foundations of the coach-mentoring relationship, and these include:

  1. Warmth and acceptance of the client and the problems they present with;
  2. Empathy toward the client, such that they sense their problem will be recognised and understood;
  3. Openness about yourself as a coach-mentor and your skills, qualifications and approach to working with clients;
  4. Self-disclosure when appropriate, the demonstrate to the mentee that you understand their problem or situation; and
  5. Honesty and reliability, which is essential for building and maintaining the clients’ trust.

The fourth coach-mentoring skill the author discusses is that of an adaptive approach to enable the relationship to develop. This means having the capacity to identify and respond to the needs, abilities and goals of the mentee, and to adjust the coach-mentoring approach (which may be directive in some situations, challenging in others, and supporting at other). Knowing when to apply each of these three approaches, argues Foster-Turner is critical to the success of the coach-mentoring relationship and appropriate for discussion at the beginning of the contractual agreement between coach-mentor and mentee.

Coach-mentoring tools and techniques

In addition to these skills, the author discusses 3 types of tools and techniques that can help the coach-mentor to successfully support the mentee through growth and change:

  1. Tools used to develop career and skills. Within this group are a number of tools that drawn up on the creative (‘right brain’) processes and those that draw upon on the logical (‘left brain’) processes. These tools aim to identify what is important to the client, their values, their personal vision, and their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to their development;
  2. Tools used for problem-solving, and these can either seek to imagine the cause of successful resolution of a problem (for the ‘right brained’ client) and the repeated asking of ‘why’ to identify the root cause of the problem (for the ‘left brained’ client); and
  3. Personal development tools including those used to address negative beliefs, the use of positive affirmations, nurturing the client’s creativity and helping them to deal with stress at work.

Organisation-based coach-mentoring programs

The author makes the distinction between formal and informal coach-mentoring schemes, noting that informal coach-mentoring occurs, in some form or another, in most organisations. She says that ‘Often people having created for themselves a network of relationships, each of which offers different elements of support and learning in areas such as political infrastructure / astuteness, knowledge and skills development, confidence building and so on. These are positive and increasingly essential aspects of working life.’ (pp 97)

With regard to the design and implementation of formal coach-mentoring programs in the workplace, the author says this will depend on the size, culture and nature of the organisation, and full consideration of the following points:

  1. The aim and purpose of the program – broad and comprehensive stakeholder consultation may be necessary to gain clarity on this point, and senior management support and sponsorship is essential for the program to be successful and to meet its aims.
  2. Pre-existing staff training and development programs – consideration of how these work, what their outcomes are, the links that the coach-mentoring program may have to these, and the level of formality of these programs.
  3. The expected lifespan of the coach-mentoring program – the program could legitimately be as brief at 60 minutes or several months or years long, depending on the aim and purpose of the program.
  4. Clear identification of who the mentees will be and a tailored approach to their specific development needs – selection of a coach-mentor individual or group should also be a rigorous and transparent step. The author refers to the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development’s ‘Guide for Coaching and Buying Coaching Services’. Understanding the values of the mentee and the coach-mentor is the next step before matching can be undertaken.

The author then shares some examples of formal coaching-mentoring programs in the workplace. These include the Oxfordshire National Health Trust, the Berkshire Council and the NHS Mentoring Network, and she the organisational characteristics that seem to be most conducive to the success of these formal coach-mentoring programs are:

  1. An organisational-wide commitment to and appreciation of coaching as a ‘normal’ and positive activity;
  2. Commitment to ongoing learning and development, both at the individual and organisational level; and
  3. Full acceptance that change and growth are healthy.

Quality of coach-mentoring in the Health and Social Care environment
In the final chapter of the book, the author identifies 2 factors that ensure high quality of coach-mentoring in the Health and Social Care environment, and these are:

(1) The attributes, skills and knowledge of the coach-mentor – this includes sound personal and interpersonal skills, curiosity and inventiveness in problem-solving, a development approach and orientation and organisational competence. Organisational competence, the author says, is important for the coach-mentor to understand, as s/he will often ‘… be in the position of being able to help the individual to raise their awareness and understanding of what may be happening around them and to create an appropriate balance between these various demands.’ (pp 114-115);

(2) Supervision and support needed to develop the coach-mentor’s skills and to continuously assess and develop these. The author suggests this can be done through the adoption of the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC) ‘Code of Ethics and Guidelines for Supervision’ (2004).

The reviewer’s opinion

This book provided an excellent introduction to the fundamental principles of coaching and mentoring, some frameworks for application and some key tools and techniques that the coach-mentor can use to coach an individual to successfully accomplish their goals. It is easy to read, and would therefore be an excellent resource for people who are interested in becoming coach-mentors, and a thought-provoking work for high level decision-makers who are considering the implementation of coach-mentoring programs in their organisations.

With regard to the application of coach-mentoring frameworks and programs within the Health and Social Care environments in the UK, the author builds a strong case for these, and identifies an unmet need for coach-mentoring of people working in middle management roles in particular.

She does not however discuss the specific challenges or barriers to delivering such programs to this group of people, or to the Health and Social Care environment at large. I believe this book would have been improved by including a detailed analysis and discussion of these challenges and barriers, especially in the current economic climate. Such a discussion may result in a greater understanding of the value of, and commitment to, appropriately targeted coach-mentoring programs in the Health and Social Care environment in the UK.

Addendum – the reviewer’s background

I have worked in the health and human services in Australia; across a number of States and Territories and across a range of government and non-government organisations for 25 years. The human services environments within which I have worked include healthcare, disability services, community development and services provided to people in residential aged care facilities.

The bulk of my experience however has been gained through working in large and integrated healthcare services (that include major teaching and research hospitals, regional hospitals and associated mental health and community services) and substantial experience working in health bureaucracies and some non-government healthcare organisations. Most of the projects and programs I have managed have been focused on the evaluation and assessment of organisational performance against broad standards and frameworks, the identification of gaps in service systems and the design of systems to meet these gaps.

Throughout the course of my work, I have responded to the need for coaching middle and senior managers through various change processes, although this role has never explicitly been part of my job description. I also have some formal training in coaching and mentoring frameworks through gaining a Masters (Leadership and Management) degree and I have facilitated in-class discussion on coaching and mentoring skills as pertinent to the concept of the ‘effective leader’ whilst delivering lectures on the topic of ‘leadership in healthcare’ in a ‘Masters in Health Management’ program delivered by a leading Australia university.

My response to this book is therefore based on the culmination of these experiences within the Australian Health and Human Services context, and within the context of leadership development – both as a student and teacher of leadership studies – rather than on specific knowledge of the UK Health and Social Care environment, or on the coaching and mentoring community, or any particular theoretical frameworks pertaining to same.


Andrews, V. (2015) Review of Coaching and Mentoring in Health and Social Care: the essentials of practice for professionals and organisations [Review of the book Coaching and Mentoring in Health and Social Care: the essentials of practice for professionals and organisations, by J. Foster-Turner ]. Retrieved from

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