The coaching has helped me shape my approach in dealing with my colleagues, team members and line manager. … given me fresh and dispassionate perspective and renewed my energy and commitment 

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A coach facilitates a conversation. Coaches create an environment in which a coachee considers an issue that challenges them or an opportunity that has arisen and where they wish to make progress. The coachee is enabled to articulate goals and to generate and consider options before identifying what they will do next in order to achieve those goals.

The coach will not offer advice or guidance or impose their own agenda, nor will they intrude into areas that the client wishes to keep off-limits. Coaching can be a rigorous experience; a coach will often reflect what has been heard from the coachee to allow the coachee to hear their own inner thought processes spoken in another’s voice. Coaches will also, on occasion, challenge an assertion or a line of thinking to enable the coachee to review their internal dialogue.

The value of coaching is that it allows an individual to work with an objective, impartial “thinking partner” who will enable them to focus on the issues that are important to them and to arrive at self-generated solutions. Coaching complements the relationship between an individual and their manager/supervisor/head of department; it does not replace that relationship.  All coaches should adhere to a recognised code of ethics, such as the European Mentoring and Coaching Council Global Code of Ethics.

Coaching is different from mentoring in that coaches bring coaching qualifications and skills, but usually have no direct experience of the area of work of their coachees, while a mentor will often bring relevant knowledge or experience of the mentee’s area of work to share with the mentee.  Research among UK employers found coaching to be one of the top three most effective learning and development practices (CIPD Learning and Development Report 2015).

Coaching can cover a wide range of work-related topics, such as personal development, confidence building, improving work relationships, career progression, specific challenges, issues, opportunities and projects.

Coaching is particularly useful when tackling a thorny issue, facing a difficult decision or experiencing a sense of ‘stuckness’.

Colleagues starting a new role, returning to work after a career break or experiencing major changes may find coaching particularly valuable.

  • What colleagues say about their coaching:

‘I am more focused on what I can achieve, rather than worrying about what is beyond my control.’

‘The coaching has given me the confidence and a way forward to deal with some difficult staff and issues.’

‘My managers have commented that I am more confident and proactive at work’

‘I found the coaching questions incredibly helpful as a framework to unpick thorny problems (and often have them in mind now, when dealing with things that come up)’

  • What other options are available?

It is important to note that coaching will not always be the appropriate development option.

If you are looking to learn from someone who has faced similar challenges in the past, or who is working at a more senior role in your profession, or if you are keen to gain advice and guidance on issues you face, then mentoring will be a more appropriate development opportunity for you.

If you already know where you would like to improve, e.g. time management skills, or managing difficult conversations, then applying for an online or face to face course may be a more appropriate development opportunity for you.

If you are feeling overwhelmed or unable to cope and need emotional support, or if you would like to explore issues in your past experiences which you feel are colouring your present, counselling will be a more appropriate support for you.

Applicants for coaching will need to be:

  • open to new perspectives and prepared to reflect
  • ready to make changes
  • able to commit to participating fully in coaching sessions (usually around 4 x 60 – 90 mins meetings), set aside time to reflect and put in place learning and actions arising from coaching
  • understand that their coach will not provide advice, mentoring or counselling
  • coachees will also need their manager’s agreement to take part in coaching during working hours

There is no cost to departments for working with an internal coach.  All coachees will be asked to confirm acceptance of our coachee agreement (PDF).

One-to-one coaching is available for University staff at no cost to departments through the Oxford University Coaching Network (OCN).  This network is made up of University staff who hold coaching qualifications or training and offer their time on a voluntary basis within their working hours to coach colleagues working in other parts of the University.  The coaching may be related to a wide range of work issues, such as personal development, confidence building, improving work relationships, career progression, specific challenges, issues and projects. Staff must apply for their own coaching, and cannot be referred by their line manager or HR contact. There is currently no cost to departments for accessing coaching (coaching by professional coaches external to the University will generally cost between £100 - £450 per hour). 

The network is administered and quality assured by the People and Organisational Development Unit. 

Staff can access up to four 1:1 coaching sessions with an OCN coach.  These sessions will take place at mutually convenient times and locations.  Sessions will be confidential and will give you the opportunity to explore an issue, challenge or goal in depth, explore options and decide on your approaches and next steps.   Oxford University is using Mentornet, an online system to help staff find a coach.

Please note: one-to-one coaching from a bank of approved professional coaches external to the University is also available to University staff, where a departmental budget has been allocated for this.  Coaching from an external coach is used where an individual has been referred to coaching by their line manager or HR as part of a performance improvement plan.  This may also be recommended for senior roles or for particularly sensitive issues where an individual may feel constrained working with a colleague. Coaching fees vary between approx. £100 - £450 per hour, and coaching programme length will vary from approx. 3-9 hours.  For further information please contact POD.

  1. Read through the Coachee agreement and ensure you can meet all the criteria listed.
  2. Go to the Oxford University Coaching Network webpage and register with Mentornet. You will need your Oxford University email address and a memorable and secure password, and will be asked to provide information about yourself and your coaching interests and goals. For further details, applicants may wish to refer to the Quick start guide.
  3. If a coach is available, your profile will be authorised and you can log on and look for a coach.
  4. Click on 'request a coach/mentor' and the system will provide a short list of coaches who are currently available for coaching, so that you can select the one you feel would be the best 'fit' to work with you. Click on 'Request match' for your preferred coach.  
  5. Your selected coach will accept your request and contact you to arrange a time to have an initial conversation by phone or in person.  In some circumstances, a coach may not accept your request, e.g. if they are suddenly unavailable, or if they foresee a conflict of interest.
  6. If you are happy from your initial contact with your coach that this will be a productive working relationship, coaching begins, and you will agree further sessions (usually up to four in total) at mutually convenient times and locations (including Skype or phone coaching if selected).

•             Watch: 'Coaching and Developing Employees’ on LinkedIn learning

•             Visit: the Association for Coaching webpages

•             Read:

More about the Level 5 Coaching professional apprenticeship offered by the University

Cox, E., Bachkirova, T. and Clutterbuck, D. (Eds) The Complete Handbook of Coaching. (2nd Ed., 2014) London: Sage.

Kline, N. (2009) Time to Think: Listening to ignite the human mind, Cassell Illustrated

If you have any questions about coaching, please contact the People and Organisational Development Unit.

Vice-Chancellor's Professional Services Awards 2023

The Oxford Coaching Network received Highly Commended recognition in the People Development Award category at the Vice-Chancellor's Awards 2023


Oxford University Coaching Network

Apply for coaching with an internal coach