Everything you need to know about coaching and mentoring – top up your knowledge with these 10 hot topics
Everything you need to know about coaching and mentoring – top up your knowledge with these 10 hot topics
Exploring the human element of the art of knowledge transfer
Welcome to the world of coaching and mentoring in business. Here, you will discover just about everything you need to know involving this important topic. But, don’t take our word for it, take a look for yourself. Without knowledge transfer from one person to another, and all the intricacies involved in mentoring relationships, we simply wouldn’t be able to preserve our pools of knowledge. Human beings are not robots and so when knowledge is transferred from one individual to the next, the process is not just about learning the technicalities involved in any body of knowledge being passed down, rather the subtleties and nuances of human psychology play a major role in ensuring that the way in which skills and techniques are taught to others is as important as the knowledge itself to maintain the highest standards. Basically, we want to get it right.
Coaching and mentoring is as old as time itself. If you think it is about time you knew more about this important topic, you are on the right page, so read on.
1. Coaching and mentoring in corporate coaching – exploring the dimension of Emotional Intelligence, the EQ factor
2. On building self-knowledge in coaching and mentoring – at the end of the day it’s about being a good coach and mentor
1. Coaching and mentoring in corporate coaching – Exploring the dimension of Emotional Intelligence, the EQ factor
When it comes to corporate coaching EQ plays a hugely important role.
In coaching and mentoring and particularly in corporate coaching the emotional dimension is often one that coaches shy away from. Often, in corporate coaching emotional skills create the difference between a merely competent manager and one who is truly effective. Hence, a great deal can be achieved with a heightened awareness of emotional intelligence or EQ when it comes to coaching and mentoring and finding a mentor can be highly beneficial.
Components of emotional intelligence
Even with experts engaging in IQ tests as a method of measuring the ability of employees, they acknowledged that the competencies being assessed were only a part of what contributes to an individual’s personal and professional success. The five components of emotional intelligence in coaching and mentoring mainly consist of:
- Self-awareness and self-control – understanding one’s core beliefs and values, evaluating how feelings influence actions and responding appropriately in emotional situations.
- Empathy – the ability to understand and appreciate the circumstances and viewpoints of others and to understand their needs and feelings. Empathy involves understanding the emotional reactions of others and how such affect their actions. The ability to show empathy stems from a genuine concern for other people. However, this is not an ability that everyone possesses. If one is to lead others through a difficult change, one needs to understand how the transition affects the individuals concerned in order for effective leadership to take place. To improve the ability to be empathetic, it is important to be mindful not only of what employees are saying but also of the underlying emotions that are motivating their speech as well as their actions.
- Social expertness – establishing positive relationships with people by projecting openness and optimism.
- Personal influence – establishing credibility and accountability enables one to persuade, guide and inspire others.
- Mastery of mission, vision and guiding principles – the ability to understand one’s role, company purpose and how they align.
- Steering point – the steering point is the objective that results from a synthesis between goals, hopes for the future and ideals.
Body language and facial expressions often communicate volumes in their own right. For this reason it is wise to ensure that they therefore convey a positive message. As coach and mentor, it is also a good idea to ask yourself:
- How do others see me?
- Am I friendly and approachable?
Gauge opinions from others to establish how you come across. The influence you have within your organisation is based on numerous characteristics, for example, your expertise, the network of relationships that you build over time, your ability to regulate and control your emotional reactions and your ability to convey enthusiasm and purpose. When others are engaged in finding a mentor they will assess these characteristics in you in order to determine whether they feel comfortable engaging with you.
Higher EQ scores mean higher productivity levels
A significant gap separates the productivity levels of high performing, star employees from the productivity levels of average employees in medium or high complexity fields. This difference can be attributed to EQ. Companies that practise hiring based on higher scores on EQ tests observe a measurable increase in productivity. This difference is especially evident in sales roles where emotional aptitude is vital.
Intelligence, knowledge and skills do not guarantee success. In numerous studies, the determining critical success factor is high emotional intelligence.
When asked what irritates them the most, nine out of ten employees will often maintain that they don’t receive enough recognition for their accomplishments. Most often, good work is not rewarded or praised. Without mentoring or feedback employees often misunderstand and sometimes misinterpret how their work is being evaluated. Finding a mentor with an understanding of these factors is critical.
Many managers are uncomfortable correcting employee behaviours yet finding a mentor is extremely important
There are also times in any corporate coaching process when employees need to know when they are falling short of expectations and for this reason finding a mentor is extremely important. As a leader, providing guidance is part of the requirements of the job, yet, must be tailored to individual circumstances since every person and situation is unique. Unfortunately, many managers are uncomfortable when correcting employee behaviours as they fear emotional blowback. Certain managers also believe that financial compensation is all the praise an employee needs. This is a fallacy that coaching also attempts to address.
In a nutshell, when it comes to coaching and mentoring in corporate coaching all good managers coach their staff members and in today’s world employee outputs and how they achieve results must be carefully evaluated. This leads coaches into more personal territories which certain managers and employees find uncomfortable. Yet, people do desire and need feedback in terms of what they are doing well and where they are in need of improvement hence finding a mentor is crucial.
2. On building self-knowledge in coaching and mentoring – at the end of the day it’s about being a good coach and mentor
‘To mentor or not to mentor’
In many cultures coaching or to be a coach or mentor means that self-knowledge is the fount of wisdom. In Sanskrit there is a term rasa, which means ‘the delight of tasting one’s own consciousness’ (Anderson, 1996, p. 8). The precept on the gate of the oracle at Delphi was ‘Know thyself’. Bagwan Shree Rajneesh said in a book Neither This nor That, which has been long out of print, that a much divorced film star might wonder why the women he marries all turn out to be bitches. Or, Bagwan wonders, why do we think we will be happy in a palace when we are not happy in our hovel. He suggests that it is useful to consider that wives and palaces do not exist except in our own imagination. Again, as the poet John Milton said in the ferment of the Protestant revolution, ‘All are called to self-instruction, not only the wise or learned’.
Hence, one of the functions of coaching and mentoring and being a good coach or mentor is to enhance awareness of the degree to which we make our own lives. Much of this work seems to be directed at accepting the part that we have played in creating our own world. With both highly advantaged senior executive syndrome – the temptation to ascribe such good fortune as we have to ourselves and the corresponding desire to blame everything that goes wrong on others. This article sets out approaches that we have found useful in addressing these perceptions. There are four sections:
- Opening up the learner’s values.
- Changing belief sets.
- Bringing stereotypes into the open.
- Understanding one’s life and career.
In coaching and mentoring sometimes mentees as well as coaches find it a difficult or lengthy process to elicit the mentee’s values in a consistently structured effective way. If the coach or mentor understands the mentee’s values this helps in making fulfilling choices, taking appropriate decisions, formulate action plans, set goals, and lead a balanced life. It raises the client’s self-awareness of how their feelings and behaviour are affected by actions and events that support or challenge their values.
The mentee is asked to identify special, peak moments in their lives which were particularly rewarding or poignant. The technique is based on one of a series of value clarification exercises in Whitworth et al., (1998). It is most effective when the mentee selects a specific ‘moment’ – or there will be too much ‘experience’ to allow pinpointing of specific values.
When the mentee has a specific moment in mind ask:
- What was happening?
- Who was there?
- What was going on?
- What was important about that?
- What else?
Listen carefully to the words the mentee uses and how their voice changes. Periodically pause and test the words used to see which values the mentee responds to. For example, this was drawn from a mentee interview: “An important time in my life was when I was changing careers. I was on the brink of making a big change, and saw the horizon stretched out in front of me. I was more than a little nervous, but the sense of possibilities was immense. I was spending a lot of time with my family, talking about the future. Their support was vital to nurture my dream and allow it to grow. They were honest with me – I value that honesty thing. I was being told that what I was doing was right for me. I knew that, but I needed to be told to be 100 percent certain. I was starting to re-train too, and I love learning and gaining knowledge. Also I like to ‘be alone’, and studying gave me that. And most of all it just felt right. I didn’t feel uncomfortable.”
- The community/family
- Security and safety
- Space alone.
Once a list has been established, ask the mentee to expand on each one by using questions such as:
- What does truthfulness mean to you?
- Can you make it specific – is it truthfulness or integrity or truth?
This exercise can be repeated and reviewed to ensure that as the mentee’s self-awareness grows, their understanding of their values becomes deeper and more effective for them. The list of values can also be used to inform decision-making using a values-based decision matrix, where the mentee lists their values and scores them out of 10 on their level of satisfaction. They can be challenged to take decisions based on how their values are respected or ignored for each outcome. This can also be used to review life-balance issues for mentees using the scores as stimuli for action.
There are other ways of eliciting values based on this model which may appeal to different mentees and coaches, such as asking the mentee:
- to list the must have in their life;
- to take what is important to them, and what others say about them, toan extreme – and focusing on what the value might be;
- to describe a time in their lives when they felt angry, frustrated or upset, and reversing the descriptions of what shows up.
Defining what a value is need not be contentious – it is after all, most important that this exercise means something powerful to the mentee, and gives the coach a series of insights into what is important. To make this exercise most effective in this important aspect of coaching and mentoring and being a good coach or mentor is to ask the mentee to describe what values mean to them at the very start. It may help to work from a list of examples to prompt yourself and the mentee when words fail.
In coaching the past few decades has produced many changes to the business environment. High performance is no longer an option, whether the organisation competes regionally or in the global marketplace. Technological changes bring about new challenges on a daily basis but are not the only source of increased pressure within organisations.
Currently, we are experiencing a global decline in the economy, with the depth of downturn different from country to country, however, still very much a reality if not a fear or even a threat to organisational survival.
Employees who adapt and change along with the organisation are an essential key to business survival
If organisations are to sustain a healthy competitive advantage, employees who are productive and willing to continually learn and adapt as their roles change along with the organisation are invariably an essential key to the survival of the organisation at large.
What are the advantages of coaching?
Coaching enables employees to exceed in their current roles and increases their potential for future roles
Organisations today need people who at best exceed expectations and at worst meet the required standards. Managers with good people skills can achieve that level of performance from their staff using coaching and mentoring techniques. Therefore coaching can be seen as the process by which employees gain the required skills, abilities and knowledge to develop their skills professionally and become more effective in their roles. When employees are coached both their performance in their current roles and their potential in future roles is increased. Coaching and mentoring and change happens therefore it boosts performance in ensuring that employees know what is required of them and how best to achieve their objectives.
Sustaining employee motivational levels
When mentoring top performers, a climate of coaching them to take on tasks and responsibilities beyond those designated in their job descriptions is created. Managers share their experience, wisdom and knowledge as well as professional contacts in order to sustain the motivation of those whom they mentor, maximise their contribution to the organisation and demonstrate an interest in their professional growth.
Why Coaching is important in the workplace?
Mentoring initiatives exist to orientate new hires, conserve and transfer special skills and to advance the interests of special groups such as women who break through the glass ceiling in overcoming isolation that diversity in the workforce creates.
An individual will often have more than one mentor
Often, mentoring is one-on-one yet is sometimes also achieved in a group setting whereby an individual may have more than one mentor, each with unique areas of expertise. Coaching and mentoring are very different from counselling although many of the steps involved in the process share distinct similarities. Counselling is frequently one-on-one yet, unlike coaching, is often designed to correct poor performance.
Coaching prevents performance problems at the outset
Coaching is designed to address and prevent performance problems at the outset, stimulating employee commitment and engagement from the very first day on the job. Coaching and mentoring both recognise that employee growth and development do not occur spontaneously, often requiring a concerted conscious effort on the part of both managers and employees. Beyond that, it also takes time and commitment in the sense that it is not just about advocating once-a-year talks following the annual performance review. The best employee development process is ongoing which means implementing coaching at least once a month.
In a business and economic climate fraught with constant change, done correctly, mentoring one employee can also motivate others in the team and the organisation at large.
Coaching and mentoring and change – what can be traced all the way back to the Stone Age
Coaching and mentoring can be traced all the way back to the Stone Age when older members of the tribe or clan often taught younger members how to hunt, gather and prepare food as well as fight off enemies. Yet, although we have come a long way since Stone Age times, the principles and reasons behind the process remain even more critical to business survival in the tough economic times of our modern era.
The rapid growth of technology and its resulting impact on business systems, especially in the online arena, play a very important role in coaching and mentoring especially when one is a coach. Often, senior management need to know more about new technology that their younger counterparts can teach them which brings about another facet of the coaching and mentoring process in the form of reverse mentoring whereby the employee becomes the coach.
Reverse mentoring – a growing trend when considering a coach
Reverse mentoring has become such a growing trend that the term has now been adopted under the banner of the coaching and mentoring process.
Where technology is concerned, it is more often the case that those who are younger and new to management, even new hires, are more familiar with online technology than their older middle and senior management counterparts. Indeed, many senior executives feel completely overwhelmed by new technology. They recognise its importance yet they depend on others for advice to make decisions regarding its use, not always the best solution, since many technical individuals are not familiar with the broader picture. Jack Welch, head of GE, faced this problem and solved it using the technique that has now been popularised as ‘reverse mentoring’, that is, instead of senior management mentoring younger staff members, senior executives are coached by younger employees in specific areas. In the case of GE, it was 1000 executives and the topic was technology.
At GE the process required that senior managers, including Jack Welch himself, spend time learning from Internet and technology experts from within the company. This training included basic Internet skills and discussion around important trends and development on the Web. Critical to the programme was the identification of technology savvy employees who could coach and serve as reverse mentors. These individuals may have been young and of low ranking in the organisation yet they needed to have the self-confidence to teach and coach senior executives about technology trends and even insist that senior executives, although occupied with other business issues, keep to scheduled meetings in order to be trained.
The main problem with this initiative was for executives to actually admit that they had a technology problem and might be in need of a coach. For many, it was a difficult yet necessary task to obtain their commitment to ensure that they would take instruction from these younger employees in the role of coach. The overall benefits – saving on costs as senior managers maximised the use of technology and were able to make better decisions.
Any coaching and mentoring relationship (performed by coach or mentor ) is unlikely to progress very far or produce effective results if there is no initial rapport between the coach or mentor and the individual who is being coached. The process of establishing rapport is essential. Mutual consent and a willingness to actively get involved in the relationship are essential ingredients to the coaching and mentoring relationship.
In certain cases, one party or the other may be an unwilling or an unaware partner in the process, for instance a direct report who does not want to be coached by a coach or where the person is chosen as mentee by someone more senior who takes a proactive interest in their development without disclosing the intent of the process. The former is not necessarily a positive relationship and the latter may not be considered as a relationship at all if one were to apply the broad definition of the term.
It is important to establish mutual understanding of what the relationship entails
What is equally important is a broad sense of purpose, a mutual understanding of what the relationship entails, even if there is no fixed pre-set goal in place. Even a casual friendship contains elements of being available, and of being able to provide practical or psychosocial support. Relationships with low rapport and high clarity can still achieve results with respect to performance and learning. A relationship with low clarity and high rapport is more enjoyable but less likely to create personal change. Relationships that score high in both aspects are usually the most rewarding and successful with respect to measurable outcomes. When both clarity and rapport are low, little can reasonably be expected from the relationship.
In establishing a rapport between the coach or mentor and the individual it often happens that a coach or mentor will encounter someone who maintains a high wall around themselves, protecting their privacy to the extent that creates difficulties for others who are attempting to get to know them. While it is possible to have a relationship with such an individual, even on an amicable or more relaxed level, the relationship will lack substance and depth. Reasons why certain people are unwilling/and or unable to share details about themselves are numerous, ranging from clinical problems such as Asperger’s syndrome to a fear of being exposed. It is not usually the coach or mentor’s role to provide therapeutic counselling in those circumstances even if he or she may be qualified to do so. The challenge is often one of reconciling the demand of the relationship for greater openness and rapport with the individual’s choice of not to venture into personal aspects of their lives.
The importance of authenticity
The essence of building rapport between the coach or mentor and the individual is authenticity. This involves being present for and open to another person in a way that no technique, however skillfully applied, will achieve. An authentic meeting between two individuals is the opposite of a programmed series of ‘moves’ which are not implemented for their own sake, but rather as a means to a predetermined end. That is why a ‘have a nice day’ approach is counter-productive in that the recipient knows only too well that this utterance has nothing whatsoever to do with a spontaneous expression of goodwill towards them as an individual and everything to do with ‘selling burgers’. As a result, being subjected to this type of formatted communication can cause alienation as opposed to bonding.
If it is to be successful, building rapport needs to be an un-studied, un-rehearsed response to the person as the interaction unfolds. But it is also a reciprocal process (between the coach and recipient) in that the developing relationship co-evolves in real time in the space between the participants. The essential ingredients for this reciprocity lie in authentic self-disclosure coupled with attentiveness and sensitivity towards the other person as to who that person is and ‘where they are coming from’.
Areas of common ground
The basic task of building rapport is to identify and start to explore areas of common ground in order to test for common values, attitudes and experience and the starting point for this is usually overtly trivial. It may involve discussions about the weather, the latest news or the latest projects that the team is engaged in. However, the content is not what is important here rather it should demonstrate sensitivity on the part of the initiator towards the recipient.
In order to appreciate how coaching and mentoring – putting things into practise can be successful we now examine the topic from a practical perspective.
If you can, hire the best
In mentoring – putting things into practise means that you need to hire those individuals who continually seek knowledge and are eager to develop new skills and who won’t accept the current way of doing things when they believe that they can offer better solutions. Seek those individuals who want to know the whys and wherefores of things and won’t accept anything without due explanation and who are dissatisfied with not being challenged
In hiring the best also ensure that those individuals are also suitably orientated towards the new work force. To kick off the process, talk about the individual’s job responsibilities. Review your assessment to identify skills gaps, knowledge and attitudes and discuss relevant training programmes, either on-the-job or offsite in order to help close those gaps.
mentoring – putting things into practise and the orientation process
Part of the orientation process after the new hire has commenced is to introduce departmental or organisational missions, strategies and tactics. To get the most from your employees induct them quickly and as far as possible into the corporate culture, which should include information about the organisation’s financial situation. Whether the news is good or otherwise it is better to ensure that people are informed to avoid negative speculation.
It is a good idea to introduce corporate values since these need to be discussed with mentees with respect to how such translate into behaviours that will increase visibility. From a coaching perspective employees will be better able to understand and accept feedback that they receive when they are fully apprised of how their role plays out in the bigger picture of the organisation.
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Coaching and mentoring meetings should be held frequently and never be limited to a one-time conversation. Ideally, coaching sessions should be held on a monthly basis. Mentoring sessions should be held more or less frequently depending on the needs of the mentee.
Creating the right climate
Coaching and mentoring can only exist in a climate that encourages a free-flowing open exchange of ideas and opinions. In light of this, provide feedback, not criticism. Be assertive and specifically demonstrate the validity of your comments. When giving feedback try to do so in a manner that communicates that any errors in performance are learning opportunities.
Becoming a role model
This rule applies to those who act as both coach and mentor. Always bear in mind the axiom, “Do what I say, not what I do.” In your role as either coach or mentor, it is not a good idea for your staff to associate this type of statement to you. One needs to also bear in mind that when one is constantly visible to one’s employees, these individuals will be emulating you and watching your behaviour. Make sure that what you do is also what you would want those you coach or mentor to do. And most importantly, keep your promises. In particular, ensure that you keep your promise to maintain open and honest channels of communication with those whom you coach or mentor in order to provide them with the opportunity to reach their full potential, personal empowerment and recognition and rewards for performance excellence.
Addressing training needs is an ongoing process
Often, employees’ training needs only become evident after a few weeks or months into the job or a job changes as technology progresses and procedures or rules change. Whatever the reason, as coach or mentor, one needs to see training as an ongoing process and regularly address skills discrepancies through training that bridge the gap between actual performance and optimum performance.
In addition, as coach and mentor one needs also to look beyond the current skills needs of employees in identifying those skills that will contribute towards the individual’s potential for advancement. If classic classroom training is not an option due to limited funds, consider alternative training methods such as online training. Assignment as assistant on a project can also provide a learning experience for individuals who learn well from example.
In part 2 of this section, we continue our discussion of putting coaching and mentoring into practise with more tips and tricks of what it means to be an effective coach and mentor.
In becoming an effective coach and mentor when setting learning and career goals, employees need to know what you expect them to gain from training initiatives. In turn, they should share their aspirations with you, especially if they are seeking a more lucrative position within the organisation. You may want to record your commitment in writing as a way of helping them to reach their goals and which means that the commitment realistically promises what can be delivered.
Learning and career goals should be discussed with mentees at the start of the relationship and periodically thereafter in order that realistic and achievable milestones can be set
Keeping in mind that coaching and mentoring are about performance
Becoming an effective coach and mentor is not only about development but also about performance. Nevertheless, their purpose is not to address performance issues which falls to the role of counselling, the aim of which is to advise a troubled employee in lieu of the situation resorting in termination. Both coaching and mentoring aim to sustain, if not improve performance levels with in maintaining continuous communication and managerial support. It is important that employees know where they stand in the organisation, what they are doing right, what they are doing wrong and how they can improve themselves. Hence, the importance of feedback from coach or mentor cannot be overemphasised. The person being mentored also needs to be able to communicate with their mentor when they need help or assistance. Both individuals need to maintain this dialogue in a timely manner and on an ongoing basis.
When your protégé needs to meet with you for a conversation, it is important for you to find the time to have the meeting, which often can require more than a ‘desk meeting’. A meeting over lunch or coffee might be what is needed for the person to be able to open up to you away from others.
“Management in business today is different combinations of face-to-face, ear-to-ear and keyboard-to-keyboard.”
Telephonic and email communication will make you more accessible to your mentee and such virtual communication channels should be used when one-on-one discussions are not possible. Email can make things easier in the sense that it enables you to discuss an employee’s performance as well as opening up the opportunity for your employees to share their dreams, aspirations and vulnerabilities with their boss or mentor.
To an employee, acknowledging good performance does not necessarily have to mean substantial financial rewards alone. More often than not, recognition of improvements in performance or a major accomplishment can come in the form of praise as well as other positive reinforcements. It is important to note that unless the achievement is acknowledged, no matter how small it may be, the improvement is not likely to be permanent and the accomplishment unlikely to be repeated. Nor are either likely to be followed by greater improvements or accomplishments over time. As a manager, part of your job is to provide coaching, indeed it may form a major part of your job description. Consider the benefits of spending twenty minutes at least once a month with each one of your employees.
Providing constructive feedback
In becoming an effective coach and mentor the keyword here is feedback. Often, we hear the phrase ‘constructive criticism’, but, criticism by its very nature is negative. Where problems exist, feedback should suggest the means by which performance can be improved and not be filled with adverbs that suggest that the person always does wrong or will never improve. Nor should judgements be made about the mentee’s attitude. By suggesting that someone is lazy, argumentative or uninterested in their work is demoralising and more likely to decrease the individual’s level of performance rather than improving it.
What does coaching and mentoring in business entail?
coaching and mentoring in business are processes that enable individual and corporate clients alike to realise their full potentials.
There are many commonalities that coaches and mentors share which mainly involve:
- Facilitating the exploration, motivations, needs, desires, skills and thought processes that assist the individual in effecting positive change.
- Questioning techniques are used to facilitate thought processes in order to identify solutions and actions as opposed to taking a wholly directive approach.
- Techniques used support the individual in setting appropriate and realistic goals and methods of assessing and measuring progress with respect to these goals.
- Techniques involve listening and asking questions in order to understand the individual’s situation.
- Tools and techniques are creatively applied that may include one-one-one training, facilitating, counselling and networking.
- Coaching and mentoring in business encourages a commitment to action and the development of lasting personal growth and change.
- The coach is supportive and non-judgemental of the individual as well as their views, lifestyle and aspirations at all times, maintaining a positive regard for the individual.
- Coaching and mentoring ensures that individuals develop personal competencies and do not develop unhealthy dependencies on the coaching or mentoring relationship.
- The outcomes of the process are evaluated using objective measures wherever possible in order to ensure that the relationship is successful and that the individual is achieving their personal goals.
- The coaching and mentoring process encourages individuals to continually develop their competencies and to improve new developmental alliances where necessary in order to achieve their goals.
- The process works within the areas of individual personal competence.
- Coaches and mentors have the necessary qualifications and experience in the areas that skills transfer coaching is offered.
- Coaches and mentors manage the relationship to ensure that the individual receives the appropriate level of service and that the programmes offered are neither too short nor too lengthy.
Differences between coaching and mentoring
As can be seen, many similarities exist between coaching and mentoring in business. In the traditional sense, mentoring enables an individual to follow in the footsteps of an often older and wiser colleague who can pass on knowledge and experience and open doors to opportunities that would otherwise be out of reach.
On the other hand, coaching is not generally performed on the basis that the coach has direct experience of the individual’s formal occupational role unless the coaching is specific and skills focussed.
However, there are professionals who offer their services under the banner of mentoring and who have no direct experience of the roles of the individual and those that offer services under the banner of coaching do in fact have the relevant experience. Hence, it is essential to determine what your needs are and to ensure that the coach or mentor in question can offer the level of service required.
Coaching and mentoring in business
Catalysts that often inspire companies to seek coaching and mentoring usually take the form of organisational development, changes brought about by changes in the actual structure of the business such as mergers and acquisitions and the needs to provide key staff with support through role or career changes.
What is coaching and mentoring in the workplace?
At one stage, coaching and mentoring were strictly reserved for senior management and company directors. However, it is now available to everyone as a professional or personal development tool. Coaching and mentoring are also closely associated with organisational change initiatives with a view to assisting staff to accept and adapt to changes in a manner consistent with their personal values and goals.
What are the benefits of coaching and mentoring?
Since they are both focussed on the individual, coaching and mentoring can enhance morale and improve motivation and productivity as well as reduce staff turnover since individuals feel valued and connect with both small and large organisational changes. This role may be provided by internal coaches or mentors within the organisation as well as professional coaching agencies.
In terms of the roots of coaching and mentoring during the course of history and throughout all societies, there have always been individuals who would invest their personal time to help others to achieve more than they would otherwise be able to do without such support.
Coaching and the Western philosophers
Looking back through the ages at the roots of coaching and mentoring, there have been many significant historical relationships that bear the mark of coach and mentor such as Socrates and Plato, Haydn and Beethoven and Freud and Jung. The fathers of Western philosophy considered the transmission of experience to be a moral duty and the sharing of knowledge was in fact a matter of course.
For instance, Socrates believed knowledge to be the most valuable commodity an individual can possess and as a consequence should be shared for the good of the community.
The relationship of older teacher to student can be found not only in ancient Greece, indeed, it appears throughout the world at large.
By the Middle Ages, a system had emerged whereby apprentices would learn their trade under a master who had undergone the same process himself. Often, a master was related to the apprentice, yet, on most occasions master and student were not related but the master was a skilled artisan who shared knowledge and skills with the apprentice in return for near-free labour.
The master craftsman as coach as part of the roots of coaching and mentoring
For many centuries, apprenticeship was invariably the only method by which advanced technical skills and knowledge were imparted to others. Essentially, the master craftsman would ‘coach’ (or teach) the apprentice. While often illiterate, the craftsman nevertheless taught by practical example as opposed to academic learning.
Medicine, law and government
Mentoring also took place in religious orders. The disciplines of medicine, law and government were all taught in the same way, that is, a senior practitioner instructed his protégé. Even as we are now into the 21st Century this model has not changed. Apprenticeships still remain the principle form of technical training, formal apprenticeships now having been replaced with vocational training.
Even today, in law and medicine, students are expected to work for a certain period of time under senior practitioners before they are considered to be fully qualified. In universities, a senior professor takes on the classic mentor’s role with graduate students in sharing their knowledge and expertise to help students complete Master’s and doctorate theses. Nor should we disregard the mentoring role played by members of the clergy as well as social workers and concerned volunteers who help people to cope with various personal problems.
The sporting world
In the sporting world coaching is a full-time commitment with the coach recruiting team members, helping athletes to improve and perfect their skills, advising on personal issues that interfere with their performance and directing their performance to achieve excellence.
Yet, coaching reaches far beyond the sporting arena. Professional coaching is a critical element in the successful execution of any game plan. Today’s view of coaching has evolved from the field of adult development which came about in the late 1950s. While earlier work by psychologists such as Sigmund Freud, Alfred Adler, Car Jung, Erik Erikson and Roger Gould all pointed to the role that a coach could play in shaping people’s thinking as they progressed from one phase of development to the next, it was the study of normal and exceptional growth and development of adults that led to numerous professionals applying developmental psychologoy to guide people through significant transitions.
Clergy, social workers and volunteers as mentors
And we can’t forget the mentoring role played by members of the clergy, social workers, and concerned volunteers who act as mentors to help people to cope with a variety of personal problems. In sports, coaching is a full-time job, with the coach recruiting team members, helping athletes to perfect their skills, advising on personal problems that interfere with performance on the field, and directing performance to achieve excellence. But coaching extends well beyond the sports arena. Professional coaching is a fundamental element in any winning game plan. Today’s view of coaching evolves from the field of adult development which arose in the late 1950s. Although earlier work by psychologists like Sigmund Freud, Alfred Adler, Carl Gustav Jung, Erik H. Erikson, and Roger Gould pointed to the role that a coach could play in reframing people’s thinking as they moved from one phase of human development to another, it was the study of normal and extraordinary growth and development of adults that led to thousands of professionals applying developmental psychology to guide people through meaningful and successful transitions.
In recent years, both coaching and mentoring have experienced renewed interest. Let’s take a look at mentoring – where it’s at. Membership of the International Coach Federation (ICF), Washington DC, has grown by over 600 percent since 1997 with over 3000 members.
Interestingly, new members are joining at a rate of approximately 100 per month. According to a survey by Manchester Inc. an HR consulting firm based in Jacksonville, Florida, USA, 59 percent of organisations currently offer coaching or other developmental counselling to their managers and executives.
Companies not only offer coaching, managers are asking for it
Companies are not only offering coaching to their managers, managers are asking for it – signs of mentoring – where it’s at. At one time, the need for a coach might have been an indictment of one’s poor management style. However, more recently, managers and executives have begun to recognise how a coach, internal or external, can identify their strengths and weaknesses, set goals and develop creative solutions to ongoing operational problems. To a certain extent the interest shown by executives and managers in having their own coach may be as a result of the use of 360-degree feedback programmes within companies that have identified unexpected interpersonal shortcomings.
Whereas companies are either increasingly hiring full-time internal coaches or contracting with personal consultants to server as executive coaches to their senior staff, there is also greater recognition of the coaching role that managers play in the job success of their employees.
Since coaching is a method of providing training as well as ongoing feedback, it naturally fits into the nature of the current times with so much interest in the value of ‘learning organisations’, that is, companies that recognise the worth of acquiring knowledge and skills as a form of competitive advantage. However, too often, managers fail as coaches because they have had no formal training in this regard. Getting employees to change their behaviour is by no means easy. It takes a great deal of sensitivity to give constructive feedback. However, without suitable training most managers either ‘tell’ or ‘yell’. The problem with this approach is self-evident in that all it does is alienate the employee.
The problem with telling someone that they need to change is two-fold. Firstly, there is no guarantee that the employee will accept that there is a problem. Secondly, and more importantly, most employees become defensive when they are told they are doing something in one way that could be done more efficiently in a different way. As the best supervisory coaches well know, the best way to gain support for the need to change is to ask questions rather than to give answers.
Another problem with too many corporate initiatives involving coaching is the confusion surrounding its purpose. An important part of mentoring – where it’s at. Often it is seen not as an ongoing process but merely as a means to address troublesome job performance issues. On occasions coaching is confused with counselling or the process of turning around problem performance areas. This is mainly due to the fact that coaching is a part of the counselling process. Again, coaching is also seen to tie in with the performance appraisal process rather than the more pervasive feedback that happens when employees come on board, and is given on a regular basis as needed, with a strong skills training element.
When effectively put into place, coaching can boost individual as well as organisational performance. Yet, if poorly done, it can alienate employees and undermine performance.
Common coaching mistakes in mentoring – where it’s at
Despite the claim that people are their most important resources, many coaches fail to treat them as such which translates into indifference towards addressing the need for support and nurturing or for additional training and advice.When an employee is not doing what they are supposed to do, some managers tend to attack the individual’s personality without addressing the situation, thereby doing the exact opposite of what the employee needs in order to change undesirable behaviour.
Where employees have gone the extra mile to deliver outstanding results, it is often the case that managers claim that they have too much to do and do not have the time to praise their employees nor do they have the time to rectify any problems that may exist. Unfortunately, this is not a viable excuse when it comes to being blind to staff shortcuts or other less than perfect efforts. When these problems are ignored they can escalate to the point that counselling then becomes necessary.
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