Coaching and Mentoring Techniques: Part 2 – a holistic/ecological/personal environment approach

coaching and mentoring techniques

coaching and mentoring techniques: Part 2 – a holistic/ecological/personal environment approach

in coaching and mentoring techniques this mentoring approach reflects the value in recognising the whole.


‘No man is an island, entire of itself’.


                                                John Donne (1571 – 1631)

At the start of the mentoring relationship the focus tends to be on the mentee and their particular issues in the workplace where coaching and mentoring techniques are concerned.  This is one of those coaching and mentoring techniques that is not appropriate when working with inexperienced individuals or those new to a position.  However, when mentoring senior people, in this instance we are providing a space for in-depth reflection, the exploration of broader issues and the discovery of other perspectives.  Alternative viewpoints and other perspectives are part of the macro environment within which we work.  It is useful to identify such factors, especially those beyond our control.  We can then focus on what is within our power to change and develop an action plan as well as consider how we will respond beyond that which is out of our realm of control.

This is one of those coaching and mentoring techniques that originates in systems theory in the social work arena.  Systems theory encourages social workers to look beyond their clients as isolated, independent units and examine the wider social systems.  The ecological systems approach is concerned with the individual’s ability to negotiate, accommodate, adapt and survive in their environment and the dynamic interaction between people and their environment.

In considering the many and diverse systems that encompass the whole environment we can expand the horizons of opportunity and understanding with coaching and mentoring techniques in seeing the impact each system or what types of coaching and mentoring techniques have on another and the ripple effect highlights the interdependence of everything.  People often see where they can make a difference and where to put their energies as well as where not to.  The ecological approach fits will for those cultures who do not compartmentalise people and the environment, who value co-operation, family and community, the ‘we’ as opposed to the ‘I’, the connection to the land, sky and water and the significance of things spiritual.

This way of reflecting may initially appear cumbersome for more linear thinkers in terms of coaching and mentoring techniques but in time the benefits of examining the pertinent systems and their interactions clarifies, deepens understanding and illuminates future action.

The systems

  1. The Mentee’s work
  2. The Mentee
  3. The Mentor
  4. The Mentoring Relationship
  5. The Team
  6. The Organization
  7. The Work Environment
  8. The Wider Context – social, economic, environmental.

Questions to consider

  • The mentee’s work

Tell me about your work?  What do you do?  Where?

What is particularly satisfying to you?  Why is that?

What part of your work is stressful or challenging?  What makes it that way?

What would you like to reflect on?

What did you do?  What happened then?  What were the consequences?

How did you feel about that?  What did you want to happen?

How would you have liked it to happen?  How could that have been achieved?

What would you have done differently?

What resources would be useful in dealing with these kinds of situations in the future?

What other options are there?  Who are your allies and those you can involve?

What skills do you have?  What are you good at?  What needs development?

How can you access the support you need?

  • The mentee

What is going on for you now?  What is happening to you physically?

Why do you think this is so?

Have you responded like this before?  How do you usually respond?

Have you come across this before?

What do you notice about the way you work?  What patterns do you see?

Why do you think these situations recur for you?  Do you want to change anything?

How might you begin?  And then?

How do you see yourself in this role?  How similar or different is it from other roles you have been in?

What do you want to say that you are not saying?

What makes it difficult for you?

What would make it easier for you?

What do you do to keep stress at bay?

How are you balancing work and life outside of work?

What impact is this having on life beyond work?

What are your personal goals?  How would you like your life to unfold?

  • The mentor – questions to reflect on silently

What am I experiencing/feeling?  Is that what the mentee may be experiencing?

What image comes to mind?

Who does the mentee remind me of?

What past experiences of mine are being triggered?  Do I need to explore this issue of mine with my mentor?  Is this a distraction or might it help the mentee?

(Plus the same questions as the Mentee as per above.

  • The mentoring relationship – questions to reflect on silently

What is going on between us?  Is there a power issue?

Is it mentee-led and focussed?

What are the accountabilities?  Is there a developing conflict of interest?

Are there any blocks or barriers that are hindering the development of this relationship?

How can deeper trust develop?

Is there a parallel process going on?

When will be the time to dissolve the relationship?

  • The team

Where do you fit into the team?  What part does the team play in this?

What are the team dynamics?  What power issues are there?

How does the team fit in to the rest of the organisation?  How would the team see this?

What impact could this have on the team?

How could you engage your colleagues?  What resources can the team supply?

What needs to change?  How can you influence change?

  • The organisation

Describe the organisational structure.  Is it congruent with the goals and core business?

How does this affect the work environment?

Who can you discuss this with in the organisation?

What systems are set up to respond to this?  What needs to be considered?

Do they fit for this situation?  What needs to be developed or challenged?

What resources can you access?  Who do you need to liaise with?

What obstacles do you have to overcome?  How will you do that?

What is the organisational culture?  What effect does this have on you and your work?

How do you think the Board see this issue?  What advice would they give you?

How can you convey to them your perspective?  What would convince them?

  • The work environment

What part does Information Technology have to play now and in the future?

What Code of Ethics/Standard of Practice underpins the work?

What ethical tensions are there?

Who are your stakeholders?  What are issues for each group?  What is most crucial now?

Who are your clients and customers?  What networking opportunities are available?

What strategic alliances can you make?

Who are your competitors?  What gives you the upper hand?  What added value do you provide?

What are the current industry issues being grappled with?

Where is your business positioned?  Where do you want it to be?

What is the current funding/financial situation?

  • The wider context
  • Social

What part does gender/sexual orientation play here?

What cultural values come into play and take priority?

What values are taking priority here?

What spiritual beliefs may be important?

What is the predominant/minority view on family commitments?

How is this influencing the decisions?

Is this discriminatory?  How might it be seen and by different groups?

To what extent is this situation influenced by language difficulties?

How do you respond to the issues that multiculturalism raises?

How can you use the media for a positive outcome?

  • Economic

What government policies are influencing this direction?

What are the expectations of funders? Contract requirements?

How does this policy impact?

What can you or others in the organization do about it?

What laws impact? Are changes pending?

What do you see are the global forces that will impact on you in the

near future? What can you control/not control?

Where will technology take this in the future?

  • Environmental

What effect will this have on the environment?

What responsibility do you have towards preserving the environment?

How far does this go? Who has the say?

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