Mentor or coach - who you gonna call?

03:36, Sep 24 2013
Boyes and Neighbours standard
Mentor Peter Boyes and coach Angela Neighbours

Brent Goldsack had been a tax partner at PwC for six years when he realised he needed help to break some obstructive mindsets.

“I used to listen to others’ opinions and probably tolerate them at best. I had a smugness; an arrogance; a confidence that led me to say, ‘I see where you are coming from, but you aren’t understanding clearly’,” he says.

With executive coaching, Goldsack now sees the world in a different light; looks at things in a non-judgemental way. And that, he says, is impacting positively on the company and clients alike.

“It’s made me look at my role in society, PwC’s role in society and what’s really important.”

He’s part of a growing breed of corporate leaders going outside their businesses - and social circles - for guidance to further their careers and bolster their enterprises.

Goldsack is one of about 35 partners at PWC who have been “illumed”, as he puts it, by New Zealand-based executive coaching practice ilume.


The coaching has had varying degrees of success. Participants need to be willing and ready to accept change and “leave some behaviours behind”, says ilume co-founder Angela Neighbours, herself a master coach.

Coaching and mentoring offer different approaches, but those in the know say they can be complimentary. It’s just a matter of timing - knowing when in your career you need either service.

“A coach tends to ask questions, where a mentor tends to give answers. But both share wisdom and intuition,” says Neighbours, who spent 20 years in the top echelons of corporate life before undergoing a “self-coachingprogramme” to find her niche developing business leaders.

Ilume offers developmental coaching for senior executives, who are assessed emotionally and cognitively to determine “where they are in life and how they think”. It’s a holistic process rather than specific, designed to expand a person’s potential and maximise their performance, and that of the business.

“By working at a senior level we can help a corporation to lead a cultural transformation,” Neighbours says.

It has helped Goldsack, for one, to change the way he deals with colleagues, clients and even his family. “Not that Angela told me what to think, or sent me off to a Buddhist retreat. It’s the way she asks questions and digs under the mask we all wear; we have a certain way we operate, and we need to break through that.”

Middle managers can undergo personal behavioural coaching, tailored primarily to look at the competency that’s required in a role.

The transformation doesn’t come cheap. Ilume’s fees start at $390 for a two-hour monthly session; a 12-month programme with a master coach is $25,000 a year. But many of Neighbours’ clients come through corporate support programmes.

She has coached one client for seven years, through six different roles. “He has successfully climbed the global ladder,” she says.

Business Mentors New Zealand’s mentoring packages come free, courtesy of private sector funding and government assistance through New Zealand Trade and Enterprise.

Aimed at SMEs with fewer than 25 employees (it’s helped over 65,000 businesses since it started in 1991), business owners pay a $150 registration fee. Then volunteer mentors – experts in their respective fields – guide them for two years.

Penny Hartill is a year into her mentoring programme and is already reaping the benefits. After eight years running her own public relations company, Hartill Communications, she found herself in a rut and wanting to take a new approach to her business.

“I’d lost a couple of contracts and I wanted a mentor to help move my business in another direction, and get a better suite of skills to offer clients,” she says.

Business Mentors matched her with Peter Boyes, managing director of Boyes Public Relations and a volunteer mentor for four years.

“I’ve got a lot of high-level pure PR and strategic advice from Peter, and I’ve already attracted new business with it,” Hartill says. “Learning one-on-one is so much better than in a lecture theatre with 100 others.”

Boyes says the process is incredibly rewarding for mentors, too. “It’s a chance to learn about other businesses, then bring it back into your own,” he says.

“Everyone can do with someone outside their business, someone impartial, to advise them whether they are on the right track. Someone without a vested interest, other than the desire to see them succeed.”

Cashflow and marketing are the two perennial difficulties Boyes sees facing New Zealand SMEs.

“We have early adopters who want to take their business to the next level. Other businesses have plateaued and want new ideas,” he says, adding most clients simply want reassurance they are taking their business in the right direction.

While an agent matches clients to mentors, the relationship might not always work out, so Boyes recommends asking for a different advisor. A client can change mid-stream – from, say, a financial expert to a marketing guru - if their needs change.

English-born Boyes, who also mentors business owners on Pitcairn Island, believes mentoring and coaching aren’t mutually exclusive.

“Mentoring is improving your business, maximising your company’s potential, while executive coaching is about personal development. There is a degree of overlap,” he says. “Anything that stretches your boundaries and helps you grow, keeps you in the know.”