What IS coaching? What IS mentoring? Which is better? What do I need? How long does it take?
These are questions we’ve been asked since launching enhance coaching.
A lot of people use the terms ‘Coaching’ and ‘Mentoring’ interchangeably, but they are very distinct styles of learning and development.
Mentoring is what most people have experienced at work. Mentoring can also be described as Teaching: the sharing of knowledge from one person to another, whether a theory or a practical process.
Why re-invent the wheel? Take advantage of what others have discovered and short cut your way to a solution. There’s a wealth of knowledge out there – find it and use it to your advantage.
You’re learning from your teachers: where do you go when you’ve learnt everything they know? You need a new teacher at the very least; if you are now the leading Expert in the Field, you need to find a new method of learning.
Coaching is a technique that began on the sports field and has migrated off the pitch. Your coach helps prepare you for a match, but you are the one responsible for hitting the ball.
In the business context, coaching develops your emotional awareness, independence of thought and how you influence and work with other people. Self-belief, self-motivation, choice, clarity, commitment, awareness, responsibility and action are the products of coaching.
Coaching is inherently about you and your ability to deal with people and situations. It helps you develop an effective management and leadership style that brings out the best in you and your team.
It is a collaborative approach, with the Coach encouraging you to come up with a solution for you to implement in your business. There is no fixed pathway: everyone is different and approaches things in different ways.
There is no limit to what you can achieve. A key part of coaching is building self-awareness and learning how to tackle and overcome barriers on your own.
It’s proven that the human mind retains more information when it’s worked out a problem for itself, rather than been told the answer. What you learn through coaching tends to stick with you longer than lessons you’ve learned as theory.
As coaching tends to influence your overall attitude and outlook, you will find what you have learned in a business context translates into other areas of your life.
Only those you impose on yourself, whether consciously or not.
However, if you need concrete, technical knowledge to achieve a task, no amount of coaching is going to miraculously save you studying that text book.
Chocolate or Vanilla?
Chocolate lovers might say there’s no debate, but if presented with a gooey brownie, I’d bet the majority of them would choose Vanilla ice cream on the side.
It’s the same with Coaching & Mentoring. Both have enormous merits; which is more relevant to you will depend on your situation at any point in time and, quite often, both will have a part to play in how you get the best result.
For instance, say you have been promoted to Company Director. You now have a wider remit and a large team, which has also brought some headaches.
Some issues will be clearly identifiable. You may need to install a new system, or devise a reward scheme, or assess the viability of a new product. Such tasks as these, which can clearly be defined as ‘tasks’, will have been tackled by others before in a similar guise.
Here, Mentoring can be invaluable. Piggyback on your Mentor’s knowledge: ask advice, for process guidance, discuss key metrics and what pitfalls to watch out for. Your path through the task should be lit by your Mentor’s advice and not a stumble in the dark.
Undoubtedly, other headaches will have a staff- based focus, perhaps a competence, attitude or attendance issue. Frequently problems are rooted in poor communication.
Coaching will help you resolve these situations in your own way, far more effectively than a Mentor telling you what to do. As you develop your own self-awareness, how you interact with your team will change and communication barriers will come down.
The real jackpot is hit when you are able to couple Coaching and Mentoring together: an effective communication and management style developed with your Coach will smooth the progress of the ‘tasks’ guided by your Mentor.
How long’s a piece of string? As with everything, you can keep learning forever.
It can be easier to break Mentoring into smaller chunks of time based around specific tasks, so you can estimate the time needed depending on the complexity of the activity.
Coaching doesn’t reach such a clear-cut end of project. 3 months is the minimum recommended time to have a Coach for: you need time to develop and practice new behaviours. As you and your Coach gets to know each other better, you will find that you gain more from each session as time progresses.
The great thing is that once you have found a Coach or Mentor who you gel with, you can draw on this relationship for years to come.
It doesn’t have to be constant interaction: you might have a gap of a year or more when you don’t feel the need for extra support. Then you start a new role; launch a new project; face an unexpected challenge. You can dial back up the support that you need to get yourself over the new hurdle.
Enhance provides coaching and mentoring for ambitious Directors, by Directors. If you would like dedicated support from a coach who understands your position, call us on 0203 500 6300 to find out more or contact us here.
enhance coaches board level executives and business owners