As leaders of businesses, we have many responsibilities. These range from dealing with the day to day operational aspects of our businesses and handling business finances to developing the people working with us. Each of these is critical and warrants much of our time and attention.
The development of your people can be both informal and formal. Helping a new employee gain essential skills and knowledge to allow them to carry out their job is coaching (and often referred to as training). Whilst this is critical to ensure an employee is productive and contributing to your business, the further development of your people through coaching and mentoring will allow your people to perform at higher and often more strategic levels; employees that are emotionally engaged by your business and its activities will have greater levels of workplace pride and become helpful advocates of your business.
In this article, we examine the concepts of coaching and mentoring and provide some advice in developing programs within your business to support the development of your team. We also briefly look at the benefits for business leaders by mentoring others and for the people being mentored as well.
What is coaching?
There are many definitions of coaching and we have all no doubt had experiences being coached in a sporting team or even being a team coach ourselves. Essentially, the coach’s job is to develop specific skills for a task. In a leisure or sporting setting, for example, the key role of a coach is to show and guide essential skills to handle forthcoming challenges such as getting others ready for a tough sporting match or preparing a young artist for an exhibition. In most cases, coaching is short term and largely task based. A coach helps a learner to master specific personal or professional goals through the provision of training, advice and guidance.
Coaching in a work setting is not very different to sporting or leisure settings. Coaching in a workplace is a process to equip people with tools, knowledge, skills and opportunities needed to be effective in their work and to be committed to the company they work for.
In summary, coaching is a focus on concrete issues. These issues range from simple motor tasks to higher order needs such as managing more effectively or learning how to think strategically. Coaching needs an expert (the coach) to teach the learner how to develop these skills.
What is mentoring?
Mentoring is a relationship between two people with a goal of personal and professional development. The mentor is usually experienced and seeks to share their knowledge and experience through advice and guidance with a less experienced person.
Mentoring is a long-term arrangement and requires time and total mutual trust to be effective. Mentoring also has a strong strategic focus and does not relate to the job
at hand. It is about supporting the person being mentored to take career steps or changes of direction at a future time with confidence.
Should an employee’s manager also be their mentor?
Typically, it is recommended that an employee’s manager does not also take on the role of their ‘formal’ mentor. The roles of ‘manager’ and ‘mentor’ are fundamentally different.
A mentor is most commonly another person who does not directly manage the person being mentored. A mentor-mentoree relationship focuses on developing the mentoree professionally and personally. As such, the mentor does not evaluate the mentoree with respect to their current job, does not conduct performance reviews of the mentoree and does not provide input about salary increases and promotions for example.
This relationship creates a safe learning environment, where the mentoree feels free to discuss issues openly and honestly, without worrying about negative consequences on the job and provides the benefit of increased integrity of the mentoring relationship and reduced potential for conflict between a person’s own manager and their mentor.
What are some benefits of being in a mentoring relationship?
Firstly, for the mentor, there are many benefits; here are just a few:
· Develops your own leadership skills – a mentor is able to better learn to motivate and encourage others resulting in becoming a better manager and team member.
· Enhances your communication skills – the building of the professional mentoring relationship requires clear communication to help build trust and confidence. Your perspectives on many things will also be challenged and your thinking on many issues may even be broadened or changed. This has both personal and professional benefits.
· Being personally satisfied – by contributing to the development, growth and nurture of another person leading to their success is highly rewarding.
For the mentoree, some benefits include:
· Obtaining valuable advice – mentors often have insights into how to advance and move ahead. Mentors act as a guide to their mentoree and provide a sounding board on many and varied issues leading to better decision making and often creating shortcuts to enacting plans.
· Skills and knowledge being developed – the mentoring process helps to identify capabilities needed to succeed. Mentoring also helps a mentoree to be creative in searching for information needed.
· Enhancing communication skills – in the same way as for a mentor, the mentoree learns more effective ways to communicate. This is coupled with the benefits of seeing many things from a different perspective – mentors and mentorees do learn from each other.
· Building networks and career prospects – a mentor assists a mentoree to further develop their network and in so doing enhancing their future career prospects.
Coaching is an essential aspect of management through teaching and showing a new ‘learner’ various ways to do their job and to master the routines and practices of a business. Mentoring is an investment in a mutual relationship of development to help and guide a person towards desired career goals and aspirations.
Whether it’s coaching or mentoring, investing in the development and growth of your employees keeps them engaged and productive. When employees see that they are able to perform and contribute with confidence and purpose, they are naturally more inclined to perform their jobs at a higher level and stay committed to you, your business and its future success.
Please note that the above information is provided as a comment and should not be relied on as a substitute for detailed professional advice.