Coaching and mentoring – where it’s at

mentoring - where it's at


coaching and mentoring – where it’s at

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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