Fi Coach Mentor Balance

Finding the Balance Between Coaching and Mentoring

As coaching continues to grow and many organizations are increasingly happy to invest in bringing in external coaches, the reach of this valuable tool can be significantly increased when we also take time to build the coaching capability of managers.

Research from an ICF Global Coaching Study found that 99% of workers who had been coached were satisfied or very satisfied, and 96% of them said they would repeat the process. However, most managers that I talk to admit to finding coaching ‘scary’ or ‘nerve-wracking’; some of them worry that they won’t be equipped to deal with the level of vulnerability that might arise, while others simply worry that they won’t be able to ask the right questions. So, what often happens is managers default to mentoring their employees and then call it coaching.

As we are in National Mentoring Month, I’ve been reflecting on how both are valuable and whether there’s a way we can support more managers in getting the balance right. This can even be as part of the same conversation if managers have a simple structure for how they might do this. After all, professional coaches sometimes offer suggestions to their coachees!

What I would suggest is that the first step is to simplify the coaching process. Everyone will probably feel comfortable getting someone they are coaching to:

  1. Get clear on what the problem is that they want to solve and what the desired outcome looks like.
  2. What the options are to get there – including obstacles they might encounter.
  3. And what the steps are that they can take to get there.

I often recommend that managers read Michael Bungay Stanier’s The Coaching Habit. But, even if they don’t have time to read the whole book, they should have time to read one of the many articles that outline his 7 questions designed to help leaders coach.

If managers spend the first part of a development conversation focused on encouraging their employees to explore their own ideas and take time to think differently, I think it’s then highly complementary to build on this with appropriate mentoring.

After all, your boss has often experienced the exact same challenges you now face, so why wouldn’t they want to share their wisdom? Perhaps what’s key in the transition from coaching to mentoring in this situation, is avoiding the word “should” and clearly stating that while this is what you experienced, and/or did, that it won’t necessarily be the right solution for you. Instead, position it as something to consider.

I read a statistic recently published by Ten Thousand Coffees that over 60% of employees would consider leaving their current company for one with more mentorship opportunities. So anything we can do to support managers by leveraging both coaching and mentoring effectively has got to be a good thing!

Copyright OrgShakers: The global HR consultancy for workplace transformation founded by David Fairhurst in 2020

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