Coaching and Mentoring Techniques: Part 1 – Role Environment Mapping (REM)


coaching and mentoring techniques: Part 1 – Role Environment Mapping (REM)

coaching and mentoring techniques – The focus of the Role Environment Mapping (REM) in coaching and mentoring techniques is to help people identify issues they may not be aware of.  Coaching or mentoring can start from a set of needs and issues identified by the mentor or mentee with the expectation that they will be addressed.  These ‘presented’ needs are often merely the tip of an iceberg that hides more critical issues beneath the surface and outside of the initial awareness of the individual.

A process that assists progress from the known, that is, the presented needs to the unknown ones that lie outside of the awareness of the individual, is known as Role Environment Mapping (REM) .

coaching and mentoring techniques

During early interactions with a coach or mentor, presented issues are often those believed to impact on work performance, job satisfaction or career progress.  Issues may be couched in very broad or global terms such as “I feel overwhelmed by the amount I have to do and the number of people I have to deal with” or quite narrowly specific, for example, “If I could perform better at meetings and presentations I would be more successful”.  Role Environment Mapping (REM) can be extremely useful in addressing these early, ‘presented’ issues and is particularly relevant where it concerns the following coaching and mentoring situations:

  • The development challenges of ‘high potential’/‘high talent’ people
  • People who are facing step changes in their role responsibilities or scope
  • Those who find their role impacted by significant organisational or similar context changes

Role Environment Mapping (REM) draws on a number of theories and approaches that relate to awareness building and personal change including:

  • Mind Mapping – which is a well-known process used to free up new ideas and connections between the familiar and more creative alternatives.
  • Applied Behavioural Analysis – which process enables an understanding of the impact of antecedents or consequences on learnt patterns of behaviour.
  • Gestalt Theory and other models of personal growth and change – such illustrate how personal change can be blocked at important stages in the cycle of experience, for example, a need can be ‘deflected’ away from awareness towards a familiar behaviour pattern that blocks development.

While REM draws on these theoretical insights, it is applied very pragmatically and can help deliver business and personal development goals.

How does Role Environment Mapping (REM) work?

Role Environment Mapping (REM) is driven by a philosophy that regards coaching as a vehicle for individual transformational change.  The coach or mentor uses probing questions to facilitate and extend the mentee’s awareness of the present situation and the blocks and barriers to change at the organisational, interpersonal and intrapersonal levels.

REM is one of those coaching and mentoring techniques that can operate at several levels according to the starting awareness of the individual concerned and the issues that need to be addressed.  For a newly-promoted executive level manager who has moved from a functional role to one which has much greater responsibilities, the map would be built up by focussing on questions such as:

  • What is the range of objectives that must be delivered?
  • Which of these objectives are critical in the short term?
  • Which of these objectives have hidden, implicit or changing parameters?
  • Who are the key people to be influenced?
  • Who are the allies, rivals or potential threats?
  • What changes can be anticipated?
  • Who can be trusted to deliver?
  • What things might be getting in the way of success?
  • What is deflecting you from your task?

By using questions such as these a map can be built up of the individual in a role and in context.  During the questioning and mapping process learning points and blockages begin to surface.

The map includes defining forces that the individual concerned exerts, or fails to exert, upon their environment as well as those pressures with which they have to contend.  Clarification of such forces include getting reality into their perceptions of delivery requirements, organisational politics, hidden and explicit change agendas and their own self-limiting beliefs and barriers to change.

Application and limitations

This is one of those coaching and mentoring techniques that  is appealing at first glance since it is disarmingly simple.  It enables particular issues to be identified or mapped further at a deeper level.  Here, the skills and capabilities of the coach are critical in determining how far to take the process.  Deep tensions can be uncovered, hence sensitivity is essential.

High level coaching often requires entering unexpected uncomfortable territories for the mentee in a way that feels relatively safe or positive.  At this point, the effectiveness of the coach in relation to trust, intimacy and empathy is vital as is an understanding of when to draw back from exposing an issue which may be unhelpful or too raw for the individual concerned.

REM is also not recommended where the mentee is adverse to psychologically or behaviourally oriented thinking or where they have become used to operating without this level of awareness.

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