Understanding executive coaching

At Catalyst we believe that business leaders, like top athletes, benefit from having a coach at their side to help them perform consistently at their absolute best. This week we will discuss executive coaching, explain how it differs from mentoring, and outline the benefits.

Executive Coaching London

Executive Coaching London

What is executive coaching?

The coaching process focuses on providing a safe environment in which business leaders build a collaborative partnership with their coach, to explore ideas, opportunities, strategies, challenges and issues, in an environment that is confidential and impartial.

A skilled coach will observe then use insightful questions and reflections to help development in an ‘ask-not-tell’ approach. Business leaders set the agenda, focusing on what’s important to them. A coach will then challenge them to explore new perspectives and alternative options, to expand their thinking and support decision making.

What’s the difference between coaching and mentoring?

It is important to understand the distinction between an executive coach and a mentor. Both are focused on the client’s personal development, both are confidential and both are ultimately looking to demonstrate an improvement in the performance of the client’s business. However, here are four distinct differences:

Session content and style

To help distinguish between mentoring and coaching we would say that ‘a mentor brings insightful answers for your questions whereas a coach brings insightful questions for your answers’. A coach will observe and ask powerful questions creating an experiential learning experience to help improve personal and business performance, whereas a mentor will give advice and guidance in response to the questions of the mentee with the same overall objectives.

Focus and scope

Coaching tends to focus on performance in a specific area or skill; this can be particularly useful to improve skills such as leadership, or dealing with conflict or difficult conversations, but also to provide support to reduce stress and improve decision making during a time of transition or change. Mentoring focuses on the development of a person by taking a more holistic approach to a person’s developmental growth.


Coaching is regarded as a ‘peer to peer’ relationships meaning that both parties are skilled in different disciplines and combining the skills creates impressive results in personal development. In contrast, the mentor is generally regarded as having more experience and insights which are shared during their sessions.

Executive Coaching and Mentoring London

Executive Coaching and Mentoring London

Time frame

Coaching support is more usually carried out over a short or medium time period, to improve particular skills or to work through a challenging situation. Mentoring support tends to have a longer time horizon in order to develop a more in-depth ‘trusted advisor’ relationship with a greater sharing of the mentor’s personal experience and expertise.

A study carried out by Stanford University highlighted that hiring an external coach is not a weakness; instead, the ability to ask for support is a key attribute of a successful leader. CEOs and boards can use coaching as a development tool to help transform the performance of their business.

How can Catalyst help?

At Catalyst, we help business leaders and senior managers across the UK to develop their business strengths through mentoring, executive coaching and group facilitation. We help leaders to collaborate and communicate more effectively, to unlock insight through and to improve business performance. We also offer consulting support tailored to your needs and objectives.

We combine business experience with a range of techniques to deliver tangible results. That’s why 100% of our customers would recommend us to others. Take a look at some of our results.

If you’d like to talk to us about helping you or your managers to become top-performing, please get in touch.