Barriers to Coaching and Mentoring

Whilst effective coaching and mentoring can play a valuable part in organisations there are barriers to it being considered and used operationally. These perceived or actual barriers in organisations are valuable to understand and more importantly address in order to increase the likelihood of success for any coaching and mentoring strategy or localised implementation. Below are some examples of the barriers, this however is not an exhaustive list.

The ‘Free Management Books’ website identified the following elements as barriers to organisations not being able to maximize the benefits or outputs from coaching:

  • The organizational culture
  • Lack of understanding of the value of coaching
  • Not seen as a priority for the business
  • Resistance from senior management
  • Low levels of skills and experience within the organization
  • Lack of time and resources

Ehrich and Hansford, (1999) identify a number of ‘barriers to coaching and mentoring’

  • incorrect matching of mentors/coaches and learners
  • lack of top-down support
  • resentment felt by those not involved in the scheme or the perception of favouritism
  • creation of false promotional expectations
  • overdependence of the mentor or mentee
  • gender issues
  • blurring of role boundaries and so on


Other barriers often cited are:

  • Leadership and management styles of the organisation – a smaller organisation, or family based business may well have more directive approaches to leadership and management, which make the introduction of a different ‘style’ more difficult.
  • Credibility of internal coaches and mentors
  • Demand for coaching vs. capacity to deliver
  • Cost of external coaches
  • Lack of engagement with stakeholders when introducing coaching
  • Little understanding of the impact and benefits of coaching
  • Treating coaching and mentoring as an ‘addition’ rather than integrating into already existing operational approaches and practices.
  • Poor communication skills
  • Conflicting relationships
  • Lack of commitment from learner
  • Poor support from managers to those undertaking coaching


Overcoming barriers to coaching and mentoring

It is important that when considering using coaching and mentoring in organisations locally or more broadly, to understand and address the potential barriers to coaching and mentoring in both approaches and communications.


  • Early engagement – working with and communicating to your key stakeholders early on to both ‘sell’ the idea of coaching and achieve their support of it. Getting a senior leader to undertake the coach training with others from the organisation will add both kudos and an evangelist for the approaches.
  • Maximise coaching that already exists – if Executive Coaching is in place or a senior leader is receiving some coaching, look to capitalise on this and use the value in coaching that they have identified to demonstrate the organisational benefits in embracing coaching and mentoring.
  • Clarify what coaching and mentoring is – forming a common understanding or what coaching and mentoring means for your organisation will create a common language and approach to it.
  • Integrate it – understanding where and how coaching and mentoring can be integrated into already existing practices. Researching the value of bringing coaching into sales, leadership and talent development and mentoring into career development.
  • Clear processes – determine how your coaching and mentoring will work in your organisation, defining the process, selection, support, development and supervision. This will reassure the organisation that there will be consistency and ‘control’ over how and where it is deployed.
  • Anticipate barrier conversations – knowing your leaders and business will enable you to have answers and evidence to overcome hesitancy over barriers and how you will approach or minimise the risk.
  • Go guerrilla! – if you have people in the organisation who are already trained coaches getting them to work on a formal or informal meeting basis to do coaching can provide valuable and relatable evidence as to the possibilities of coaching and mentoring in your organisation.
  • Be selective – when considering running a coaching programme to develop coaching and mentoring skills, identify participants who are coaching supporters or who already have a high degree of communication skills already, or those who have received coaching previously themselves. This will make the programme more effective and you already will have a number of coaching protagonists to use in the business.



Ehrich, L C and Hansford, B (1999), ‘Mentoring: pros and cons for HRM’, Asia Pacific Journal of Human Resources, Vol 37, No 3.


Developing your awareness of your coaching barriers

  • Considering your environment, what are some of the potential barriers to coaching and mentoring in your organisation?
  • Examining your organisations approach to training, what is some of the feedback in this area which identify potential barriers and could impact coaching?
  • What influence or change can you bring about to reduce or remove the impact of these barriers?