In organisations today, change is constant, rapid and relentless. Learning needs to follow this, but helping individuals and teams in this context is always challenging.
Coaching and mentoring have a key role to play in learning and development. Though the terms are often used interchangeably, they describe very different practices. Mentoring refers to learning from a more experienced person who shares their experience, which coaching is about being guided and supported to question and consider changes.
Solid mentoring relationships can create opportunities that otherwise would not exist. The sharing of knowledge, experience and advice that is inherent to the mentoring relationship is helpful as it can accelerate the learning process. However, there is also a risk that mentoring can perpetuate the use of already tried and tested approaches and create a feeling of obligation for the mentee to follow the advice of their more senior and experienced mentor.
Great coaching is designed to free one’s thinking, to stimulate much deeper reflection on motivations, and to increase self-awareness. Coaching allows time and space in which an individual can reflect on what energises and what drains him or her, in conjunction with values and beliefs. Coaching encourages individuals to identify their personal goals, create a vision for their future, and determine how they will move into that future space. The power of coaching comes from coachees themselves driving the agenda and making choices that they want to commit to.
Clarity of understanding and awareness are precursors to making impactful decisions. They assist with what to focus on and how, while supporting meaningful performance improvement. Developing awareness leads to building new skills and modifying behaviours. Using quality assessment techniques (those that are objective, pay attention to context, and are rooted in social science) can accelerate this process. Raising self-awareness and seeing clearly the enablers of and barriers to success is critical to performance improvement and/or to creating action and change.
In Hogan assessment terminology, knowing what can derail you is an advantage and a driver in creating the desire for change. Assessments are not about judging people; they are about surfacing an individual’s strengths, challenges and behavioural tendencies as quickly as possible so that the coaching time can really explore them. In simple terms, knowing what you are like at your best and knowing what happens to you under pressure is the first step in developing strategies to modify and limit the effect and impact of us at our worst!
Increasingly organisations are under pressure to deliver for their customers and the time for development is often heavily circumscribed. Developing talent is critical to business success so effective coaching can add real value. Performance, motivation and engagement go hand in hand.
How can organisations use coaching to add value?
- Start by developing your managers’ and leaders’ coaching skills. If they are effective coaches themselves, they will better appreciate the benefits this style can bring. It will impact the culture of the organisation. It will drive engagement, ultimately adding to the bottom line though improved performance and discretionary effort.
- Consider using external coaches. External coaches bring a neutrality that can offer further benefits and can challenge coachees in ways that internal coaches may find difficult. This neutral element can also ensure that the coaching and the assessment remain non-judgemental.
- Define the objectives of coaching and mentoring. Discuss these with the individual. Ensure that the coach, coachee and the organisation have alignment around what success looks like, what the current challenges are and the objectives of the intervention (a good coach should do this anyway!).
The context within which organisations operate is changing fast due to external factors, requiring new leadership qualities. Coaching and mentoring both have a place in developing these qualities. They can both be positive. But they are different and the difference matters.
Know the difference. Do both!
Rob Field, Learning and Development Director, Advanced People Strategies (APS)
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