We increasingly receive inquiries concerning our “mentoring and coaching” training. When such an inquiry is received, our first task is to clarify whether we are talking about “mentoring,” “coaching,” or both. Increasingly, clients are interested in both.
The terms mentoring and coaching are used by many as if they are interchangeable. Strictly speaking, they are not interchangeable. They are similar but different. Mentoring focuses primarily on the development of the individual, with secondary benefits for the organization. Coaching focuses primarily on the needs of the organization to ensure that an employee can perform tasks at an acceptable level of competency, with secondary benefits for the individual. As a matter of proper style and approach, mentors ask a lot of questions which require the mentee to think and learn. At the risk of over-generalization, coaches tend to be more prescriptive and directive in their approach than mentors.
That said, our mentoring training emphasizes that coaching is frequently an essential part of mentoring. What’s more, clients increasingly want a mix of mentoring and coaching so that the organization both ensures skills transfer and development between the mentor and the mentee as well as nurturing career futuring and robust employee self-development.
Figuring out the relative level of emphasis is essential to ensuring successful “Mentoring,” “Coaching,” or “Mentoring & Coaching” efforts in your organization. Clarify your terms, specify your goals, and you can design and launch a program that gets the most people on board with what you are seeking to do and how you are going about doing it. If concepts and intentions remain vague, you run the risk of ending up with a program that nobody likes
One of the joys of delivering our mentoring training programs to both mentors and mentees in both public and private organizations is to see the enthusiasm that mentees have for achieving professional growth. Similarly, the satisfaction that mentors enjoy from helping someone develop and become more competitive in this difficult labor market is yet another pleasure.
There are important benefits for the employing organization as well as benefits for both mentees and mentors. These benefits do not come for free, however. There are costs associated with standing up a mentoring program, sustaining it, and expanding it over time.
Today’s organizations run lean, hard-pressed by constraints of time and money. In some cases, on-the-ground supervisors will view mentoring as a frill, a distraction from getting today’s “real work” accomplished, as if preparing tomorrow’s workforce isn’t a legitimate part of today’s real work. That said, there are costs associated with mounting a mentoring program. The costs are not huge, but they are real and they must be factored as part of the business case.
We have received calls from people in numerous organizations who are in the early stages of considering a mentoring program. These folks are often in the midst of making a business case for mentoring that top leadership will consider.
Typically speaking, part of the process is to provide leadership with a briefing on mentoring. We believe that it is essential that everyone’s consideration of mentoring proceed on the basis of a solid foundation. That’s why we developed The Effective Mentoring Briefing. We have even put this briefing together in a way that permits the user to customize it for the number of minutes the briefing has been allocated for a leadership meeting.
The briefing provides a solid foundation that defines mentoring and distinguishes it from coaching. It spells out typical benefits for the organization, mentor and mentee and also provides example costs that may be incurred. The briefing describes how mentoring works and what an effective mentor does as part of an organized mentoring program.
We’ve done the work of developing this briefing for you based on our experience in working with numerous organizations and in training thousands of mentors and mentees over the past decade. The briefing provides a factual, unbiased presentation concerning mentoring. It doesn’t try to “sell” mentoring. On the other hand, we hope that it persuades contemporary leaders to use mentoring as a tool to cultivate tomorrow’s leadership today.
For more information, please see detailed product information.
Mentoring programs are morale-builders. They replenish energy among those who are expected to be more productive tomorrow than they were yesterday. Mentoring’s considerable contributions to morale and energy are an investment in tomorrow and an investment in today.
As an example, a forward-looking city government in Southern California, with which we have had the privilege of working as mentoring training consultants, has leveraged its mentoring program to build a strong esprit de corps throughout its workforce. The commitment of staff to bettering themselves spills over into the important work that they do everyday.
A recent study published by the Harvard Business Review (January-February 2010 issue, "What Really Motivates Workers" by Teresa M. Amabile) reports that an important ingredient, perhaps the most important ingredient in employee satisfaction is having a sense of making progress in the work that the employee is doing. At Strategic Futures, we believe that this principle applies not only to the work that the employee does for the organization, but also the work that the employee does on and for himself or herself.
Mentoring is as important, perhaps more important, in economically difficult times as it is during times of prosperity. It’s neither a secret nor inappropriate that employees who leverage your organization’s mentoring program and seek out mentors are committed to cultivating their careers. Naturally, it’s important for mentors to make plain that extraordinary efforts to develop oneself are not a guarantee that promotion will follow. Expectations must be set judiciously. The bottom line is that employees who make an investment of time and effort in bettering themselves and their skills are likely to increase the probability of promotion or other rewards, but there is no guarantee.
That said, career mobility in today’s flattened organizations is not what it once was. Promotions and rewards in budget-constricted organizations can be few and far between. Indeed, sustaining one’s gainful employment at a status quo level is a challenge in many places.
However, these difficult times can be viewed by employees as an opportunity to “pre-position” themselves for future career gains. Once the protégé or mentee, has grasped today’s economic realities, s/he can gain motivation from the fact that they are gearing themselves up for opportunities that will eventually emerge. A large cadre of mentees who share this optimistic view and who continue to improve themselves affords vital positive energy to the enterprises that are strapped by current economic challenges.
When you are considering the possibilities for high-return HR investments, give mentoring programs a close look.