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Put simply, coaching is a process that aims to improve performance and focuses on the ‘here and now’ rather than on the distant past or future.

While there are many, different models of coaching, here we are considering the ‘coach as expert’ but also the coach as a facilitator of learning.

There is a huge difference between teaching someone and helping them to learn. In coaching, fundamentally, the coach is helping the individual to improve their own performance: in other words, helping them to LEARN and APPLY. Good coaches believe that the individual always has the answer to their own problems, but understands that they may need help to find the answer.

Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximise their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.” John Whitmore, in Coaching for Performance.

The Dunning-Kruger effect vs “the impostor syndrome” is where there is a cognitive bias where someone is unable to acknowledge his or her own competence. While the Dunning-Kruger effect occurs when people overestimate their abilities, the phenomenon’s opposite would be impostor syndrome. People suffering from impostor syndrome tend to underestimate their abilities or feel that they don’t deserve their success.

The Differences Between Teaching, Coaching, Mentoring and Counselling

Although teaching, coaching, mentoring and counselling all share some key characteristics and skills, they are nonetheless quite different and it’s important to be aware of the differences.

Teaching and Training

Teaching and training involve an expert teacher who imparts knowledge to their students.

Although the best teachers will use participative and interactive techniques, like coaching, there is very definitely an imbalance of knowledge, with the teacher as expert knowing the ‘right answer’.


Coaching involves the belief that the individual has the answers to their own problems within them.

The coach is not a subject expert, but rather is focused on helping the individual to unlock their own potential. The focus is very much on the individual and what is inside their head. A coach is not necessarily a designated individual: anyone can take a coaching approach with others, whether peers, subordinates or superiors.

Coaching’ is one of the essential leadership styles identified by Daniel GolemanWhat Sort of Leader are You?

The key skill of coaching is asking the right questions to help the individual work through their own issues.


Mentoring is similar to coaching. There is general agreement that a mentor is a guide who helps someone to learn or develop faster than they might do alone.

In the workplace, mentors are often formally designated as such by mutual agreement, and outside an individual’s line management chain. They usually have considerable experience and expertise in the individual’s line of business.

A mentoring relationship usually focuses on the future, career development, and broadening an individual’s horizons, unlike coaching which tends to focus more on the here and now and solving immediate problems or issues.

The Competence Cycle Model of Learning

One useful model for learning is the Competence Cycle, a four-stage model that can help you identify your competences:

1) Unconscious Incompetence

You don’t know that you don’t know about something.

A good example would be a child who has never seen a bicycle, or has no idea that any language exists other than their own.

2) Conscious Incompetence

You have become aware that you lack a particular skill.

An example might be the child who has seen other children riding bicycles, or heard someone speaking another language, and therefore wishes to learn.

3) Conscious Competence

You have learned how to do something, but you still need to think about it in order to do it.

An example would be the child who can ride a bicycle but falls off if they stop watching where they are going.

4) Unconscious Competence

You have learned how to do something so well that it has become hard-wired into your brain.

You no longer have to think about how you do it, but just do it. In fact, if you think about it too hard, you may not be able to do it.

Coaches need to identify the stage at which an individual is at to use the right sort of language to help them move to the next stage. After all, it’s difficult to try to improve a skill if you don’t know that you lack it.

Now that you have identified the need to know more about yourself and recognise your strengths vs. weaknesses, you have the opportunity through coaching to recognise easily what constitutes or present itself to you as an opportunity vs. a threat to your career. Contact us today and find out.