What are the Proven Benefits of Life Coaching and Mentoring?
Should a person choose a life coach or a mentor? The answer depends on one’s goals.
A life coach can help a person to identify strengths, develop them, and identify personal and professional goals. Their role is to assist the coachee throughout the change process. As you will discover, this happens in several ways.
A mentor’s focus is partly on compatibility with the mentee. The mentor and mentee might engage with each other through social or professional events to determine ‘fit.’
This is the initiation stage (APA, 2006) where the mentee must “prove him- or herself worthy of a mentor’s attention.” There may or may not be money exchanged in a mentor/mentee relationship.
The three other stages of a mentoring relationship are:
- Cultivation – The mentee learns from the experiences of the mentor. The mentor gains insights from the mentee about new areas or emerging issues within the shared field.
- Separation – This is the end of the relationship. Challenges arise if one of the parties is not ready to end the relationship.
- Redefinition – The relationship reaches this level after successfully completing the separation stage. During this phase, the relationship evolves into a “collegial relationship or social friendship” (APA, 2006).
If a person chooses coaching, there are many benefits. Coaching conversations help a person focus attention on their desired goals (Moore, Jackson, & Tschannen-Moren, 2016).
Most of the session involves the coach listening, and then asking powerfully focused questions. Moore and colleagues offer several examples. Among them are:
- What was your best experience with your goals in the past week?
- What percentage of achievement did you reach for this goal?
- What contributed to this level of success?
- What did you learn from the experience?
- When you think about this goal, what feelings does it stimulate, and what needs does it meet?
The foundation of a good coaching relationship is trust and authenticity. This allows for vulnerability. Coachees who open themselves to being vulnerable also can experience growth in self-compassion (Moore, et al., 2016). Researcher Kristin Neff (2019) defines this as a combination of self-kindness, mindfulness, and a sense of common humanity (Neff, 2019).
Positive psychology coaches pay particular attention to assisting clients to identify their strengths. Coachees learn to explore and develop them as a means to achieve their goals, and also to cultivate positive emotions (Moore, et al., 2016). Generating positive emotions leads to what Fredrickson (2013) calls, “an upward spiral.”
In her landmark work, she identified ten positive emotions:
Coaching creates the space for clients to build on these emotions and flourish.
Most people do not like being told what to do or when to do it. Coaches who understand this will build coaching relationships that allow the client to act autonomously.
Autonomous motivation means the person controls the decision-making process. The coach provides resources and support and nudges as needed, but the coachee is in charge.
People who are autonomously motivated pursue actions that are of interest to them (Moore, et al., 2016). They view the actions as important. Behavior change happens when the client experiences greater autonomous motivation.
Moore and colleagues (2016) cite five benefits originally identified in Deci’s (2013) presentation, “How do we support autonomy and build accountability?” They are:
- Positive behavior changes last longer
- Increased creativity and flexibility
- Improved performance
- Making changes is enjoyable
- Health and personal relationships improve
If coaching does not fit a person’s needs, then establishing a mentor relationship can also be beneficial. The APA (2006) defines mentoring as a “professional development relationship” having two functions.
The first is career-related placing the mentor as a coach dispensing advice. The second is prosocial and puts the mentor in a role model and support system position.
Mentored individuals are more satisfied and committed to their work and have better performance evaluations (APA, 2006). Mentees are not alone in reaping the benefits of this type of arrangement. Mentors often feel reenergized and satisfied because they are helping someone become a leader.
Both life coaching and mentoring involve a willingness to learn, grow, and adapt.
A Look at the Research
Many of the effects of coaching or mentoring come from applying knowledge obtained from social science research. For example, the Self-Determination Theory of Motivation is “the end game of coaching” (Moore, et al., 2016).
The authors describe this as a person’s ability to reach their peak in “motivation, engagement, performance, persistence, and creativity.” The coach’s job is to ensure that the environment meets three psychological needs. They are autonomy, competence, and relatedness as defined by Deci and Ryan (1985).
According to Moore and colleagues, other areas affecting the growth and legitimacy of coaching include:
- Positive Psychology (for example, character strength research; the Broaden and Build Theory of Positive Emotions; specific interventions like gratitude journaling, and mindset research.)
- Appreciative Inquiry (AI) – A change process that explores and emphasizes the best in a person or situation; this can be especially useful for organizational change processes.
- Motivational Interviewing (MI) – This approach encourages people to develop their own reasons for change. Doing this often leads to less resistance and greater success while working with a coach. It has been tested in counseling people with addictions.
- Emotional Intelligence (EI) – EI includes four areas: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management (Goleman & Boyatzis, 2017).
- Design Thinking – A human-centered method that helps people find creative solutions to problems (Bayer, 2018).
- Flow Theory – Also known as “being in the zone” this is an immersive experience that yields peak performance.
- Social Cognitive Theory – Postulates that learning happens in social contexts. It is the interplay between a person, their environment, and behavior (LaMorte, 2018).
- Adult and constructive development – Conceived by Bob Kegan, this theory focuses on “growth and elaboration of a person’s ways of understanding the self and the world” (Palus & Horth, 2016).
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – This is a type of psychotherapy (talk therapy). It helps clients identify and overcome negative thinking patterns. This helps the client better handle future challenging situations (Mayo Clinic, n.d.).
Coaches who have knowledge, training, and practice in some of the above domains are in a better position to assist clients.
The focus of coaching falls into three categories that can overlap (Grant, 2005). Coachees can work in specific areas like sales, negotiation, or presentation skills. Coaches can address performance skills through goal-setting, monitoring, and accountability. Developmental skills target intra-personal and interpersonal obstacles experienced by a coachee.
Coaches also can use three approaches to coaching. Losch and colleagues (2016) investigated the effectiveness of these in a randomized controlled study. They wanted to know if any, or all, of the scenarios could reduce procrastination. The researchers divided the 84 participants into three groups:
- Individual coaching,
- Self-coaching, and
- Group training
They found that individual coaching and group training reduced procrastination. People in the individual coaching group experienced greater satisfaction and goal attainment. Group training positively influenced pertinent knowledge acquisition.
The self-coaching group performed exercises independently. People in this group had difficulty attaining higher goals. The researchers determined that these participants needed coaching support.
The coach’s leadership style also influenced participants’ “perceived autonomy support and intrinsic motivation.” Coaches used transformational and transactional approaches in individual situations.
The focus of transformational coaching is helping the coachee see themselves differently. The focus of transactional coaching is on actions and rewards. A transactional approach did not influence clients to the same degree that a transformational style did.
Credited to https://positivepsychology.com/team/kori-miller/ 28-11-2019