Coaching is completely different from mentoring, which is your ability to help someone grow in their immediate, professional career.
For a coach, the task at hand is most important. The coach has to help the person learn the requisite attitude, behavior and skills needed to perform the job successfully within the agreed success parameters. The task is therefore well defined and the conversation happens with a clear focus and specific timelines.
Mentoring focuses on the individual and the conversation transcends more broadly into the general work life. This means the interaction can be more philosophical, more focused on attitudes and behaviors than on specific skills. Of course, these talks could also have the same level of focus and timelines but the entire individual is the topic of discussion and exploration and not just a specific task.
The role of the coach is to create a specific agenda, split the task into manageable sub-tasks which have clear skill components and look at the different ways a person can learn them. Research shows that actual experiences are the most effective learning tools. Training programs only benefit when the newly trained person goes back to work in an environment that has also been appropriately modified
There are several reasons why companies today don’t focus on mentoring:
- Downsizing has increased workloads and people feel as though they simply don’t have the time to devote to mentoring;
- Upper management doesn’t understand that there really is a ROI when it comes to taking the time out to mentor others;
- Managers aren’t properly trained as to how to become good mentors, likely because they haven’t received mentoring themselves; and
- Some employers find mentoring useless because they think their employees will likely move on to another position or company eventually anyway.
I personally think these are terrible reasons to avoid mentoring. They all reflect one problem – a huge lack of commitment to your company, to yourself, and to your employees.
Phil Heft – pheft@Hotmail.com