Mentoring and coaching skills for PIs

As an effective mentor or coach you need to have, and be prepared to develop, certain skills including integrity, confidentiality, honesty and an ability to provide feedback.

You need to be willing to commit your time and to have an interest in developing others. You also need effective listening and questioning skills.

Listening well allows you as coach or mentor to avoid making assumptions and to develop questions around what is being said (Thomson 2006). This builds rapport and shows respect, enabling the mentee/coachee to open up. Effective listening builds an understanding of:

  • where a person is having difficulties
  • what will be of interest
  • what they might need to know
  • how much time is available.

Coupled with listening, effective questioning promotes deep thinking, exploring contradictions, challenging commitment and offering new perspectives. Open questions are most effective as they do not pre-suppose the answer and encourage in-depth replies. 

One model that can be helpful for you to use as a basis for structuring a coaching or mentoring session is GROW (Whitmore 1993):


  • What is the desired outcome?


  • What is currently happening?


  • What could you do?


  • What will you do?

You could structure a session using possible questions based around GROW [PDF].

You may also be interested in pages on  approaches to mentoring and coaching.