Coaching and mentoring and the meaning of success

Coaching and mentoring and the meaning of success

As coach, mentor and during the coaching and mentoring process one of the most common types of learnings transfer that occurs between coach and mentor and mentees relates to perceptions involving success.  It is easy for a coach or mentor to impose their own assumptions about what success entails upon someone else.

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A generic definition of success in coaching and mentoring can be expressed as:  achieving what you value.  Yet, in itself achievement is not enough.  It is also common for someone to earn a fortune yet still feel discontented.  Achieving an outcome of little importance in terms of a person’s values does not constitute success, nor is achieving something someone else wants unless what is valued is pleasing to that person.  In a nutshell, a person’s definition of success varies and coaches and mentors need to:

  • Recognise the validity of the other person’s definition of success
  • Refrain from posing their own view on others
  • Help the mentee clarify what success means to them
  • Assist the mentee to relate life and career goals to the meaning of success

Certain generic success factors need to be considered such as:

  • Money
  • Status or peer recognition
  • Job satisfaction
  • Work/life balance

The mentee should allocate at least 10 points between these factors, according to how much they value each as part of what success means to them.  Then, doing the same calculation but taking it back to approximately 10 years, then forward the same amount of time.    Question what changes the mentee sees in success criteria between these dates.

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In coaching and mentoring it is not unusual for people to change their view of what makes for current success.  It also helps the coach or mentor to recognise where the mentee is applying values differently to their own and to adjust their overall approach accordingly.  It can be useful to generate a longer list of success factors treating those listed above as a starting point in this coaching and mentoring exercise.  Other points that emerge are for example:

  • Happiness
  • Doing good
  • Health
  • Family spirit
  • Making a difference
  • Autonomy/flexibility
  • Security

Rather than use a longer list it enables the exercise to centre upon the mentee’s concerns if they generate their own list.

The cascade of change

The cascade of change addresses the issue of commitment from a stage model perspective which recognises that people go through a number of steps to achieve commitment followed by several more to move from commitment to achievement.

  • Awareness

Awareness of the need to change is, in itself, unlikely to stimulate action unless the consequences of the failure to do so are immediate and dire.  There may be intellectual understanding that it would be beneficial to be more skilled at a certain task or behaviour but that is also true of many other tasks and behaviours, hence, why should this one assume any sense of urgency or priority?

  • Understanding

Understanding occurs when the need for change is brought into focus, usually by some external event, which underlines the benefits of taking action and the disadvantages of not doing so.  While the stimulus may be emotional, this is primarily an intellectual recognition and the sense of urgency can quickly be rationalised away.  There may also be a clash of belief sets within the individual, for instance, “I know I’m making myself ill eating chocolate but I enjoy it.”

  • Acceptance

Acceptance occurs when the emotional and intellectual senses of urgency align.  The benefits of action strongly outweigh those of inaction and the person is then able to focus on this issue without too much competition from other issues that demand attention.

  • Commitment

Commitment puts the seal on acceptance.  It involves a solemn promise to oneself or to others who respect is valued.  It links achievement of the change goal with a sense of identity or self-image.  To fail is to diminish oneself.  However, commitment will not deliver results without a plan of action.

However, even with a plan of action the whole exercise will be of little value if not implemented.  Implementation requires positive feedback, both from oneself and from others in order to reinforce commitment.  If, after initial effort there is little sign of progress it is common for enthusiasm to wane and for old habits to reassert themselves as the effort-reward equation is re-evaluated.  The coach or mentor supports the mentee through any of these stages but will be most effective when the mentee has at least reached the awareness stage.

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