Organizations are continually refining their value statements in order to attract and retain the right talent and to support growth within an increasingly competitive marketplace.
Human resources professionals are challenged with finding the right mix of benefits and compensation, work-life balance initiatives, flexible alternative work scheduling, and other perks to keep employees engaged. Two tools that are often underutilized are mentoring and coaching. Both tools are sought by employees, regardless of their generation. The newer generations, however, consider mentoring and coaching as important components of their skill development.
Mentoring is a relationship in which a more experienced or knowledgeable person (mentor) helps to guide a less experienced or knowledgeable person (mentee). It’s a development process that helps both mentee and mentor explore questions that are critical to the mentee’s career. It’s a safe place for the mentee to gain valuable insight about his/her organizational culture. Mentoring creates a confidential environment in which to gain guidance about career management.
Mentors help their mentees attain institutional knowledge, assimilate organizational culture, and acquire information about business opportunities. Mentors do this by sharing, guiding, modeling, advising, supporting, and networking with their mentees.
Mentees benefit through increased self-confidence, decreased stress (Organizations can be tough places to acclimate.), increased opportunities for honest, constructive feedback, accelerated learning and career development, and a greater feeling of commitment from and to the organization.
Mentoring is not a new concept. Mentors have existed informally forever in business, politics, community affairs, and life, in general. You may have had one or multiple mentors in your career and personal life. However, a more formal mentoring approach is now expected in a more formal approach by Generation Y and Generation Z cohorts as they have entered the workforce. How do we address this critical demand?
Mentorship in a formal sense is inexpensive to implement and can have a lasting impact organizationally. It is said that this is the first time that four generations are working side-by-side in the workplace. You need look no farther than right outside your office door (or across your cubicle) for a ready supply of mentors. Women and men who have had long and successful careers and who may be looking for a new purpose, an opportunity to re-engage and be challenged, a chance to leave a legacy while continuing to contribute in their day-to-day jobs, are available throughout your organization.
What do mentors get through a mentorship program? They experience self-fulfillment, revitalized interest in the workplace, personal satisfaction, recognition within the organization as developers of talent. Mentors get the chance to be architects of the next generation of organizational talent, and self-development for themselves as they get exposure to wider generational influences. Many leaders work with newer generations, and participation in a mentorship program can expose them to new ideas, new ways of communication, and new ways of leading.
Finally, what does the organization get from a formal mentorship program? To start with, mentorship increases engagement. It accelerates talent development and increases retention. Mentorship programs help ensure a better cultural fit by improving communication and implementation of culture, business strategy, and organizational principles. Organizations experience increased commitment, support, and recognition as places that actively support and develop talent.
We have all experienced coaching in one form or another throughout our lives – Little League and school program coaches baseball, softball, basketball, and soccer; coaches instructing us in voice, music, and dance. Similarly to our experience with mentorship, we can all recall coaches in our lives who have made a lasting impact on our performance. As with mentorship, coaching has become expected in the workplace, as a tool for personal and career development, and as a core competency for our organization’s leaders.
Ken Blanchard, in his book, “Leading at a Higher Level,” identifies five applications for coaching in the workplace: performance coaching, development coaching, career coaching, coaching to support learning, and coaching as part of the internal organizational culture. In a book he co-authored,“Primal Leadership” Daniel Goleman, lists coaching as one of the key leadership styles and leadership coaching is often cited as the least-used leadership style. What then is coaching, and how can we use it to develop our talent, fortify your succession plans, and give our leaders an additional skill for their tool kits?
Coaching can be defined as a “deliberate process using focused conversations to create an environment that results in accelerated performance and development” (Blanchard). In the organizational environment, coaching has too often been used as a last resort to “fix” a performance problem. Without a doubt, this is a legitimate use of effective coaching as performance coaching is often necessary to get an employee back on track or to correct “bad behavior.”
However, more forward looking tool, coaching within the organization (executive coaching) has applications beyond correcting behavior. Individual development and learning support are powerful uses for coaching to help foster an environment of individual success, personal growth, top performance, and leadership development. The effective use of executive coaching can enable an organization to remain on track as it develops its future leaders, addresses succession planning, reinforces learning, and introduces coach-like behaviors across the organization.
When implementing coaching as a development tool within your organization, it is helpful to seek out trained, certified coaches (internal and external) who understand that their role as coach is different from the role of a mentor or adviser.
COACHING & MENTORING: SIMILARITIES AND DIFFERENCES
Both coaching and mentoring are important development tools that, when properly implemented, address engagement, development, and retention resulting in lasting impact on organizational culture. There are some key differences between these two competencies that we need to be aware of, however.
As we saw above, mentors are drawn from within the organization, and they play an important role in helping mentees align their individual and functional goals. Mentors are not responsible for mentee performance; they, instead, serve as guides to organizational opportunities to which the mentee may not be privy. They help their mentees take charge of their own growth. They are sounding boards and confidantes. They are active in helping their mentees network.
Coaches, on the other hand, are typically from outside the organization (though formal internal coaching programs are beginning to become popular). Coaches are trained (or should be) and certified in their profession. Coaches help align the individual to the overall organization direction (The coachee/client may be the focus of the engagement, but the organization is the sponsor and is involved in the process.). The coach models communication to help develop and improve the individual’s performance. A coach encourages sharing of feedback and development plans with others. Finally, whereas a mentor helps her mentee take charge of her growth by introducing her mentee to the organizational network, the coach encourages personal introspection and ongoing feedback with her coachee.
An executive coaching engagement with a trained, professional coach is a valuable resource when looking to develop leaders throughout the organization. Use trained, professional executive coaches (internal or external) who understand that their role is to guide and develop the individual and not to mentor, consult with, or advise.
For more information on retaining and executive coach, or creating a mentoring and coaching program at your organization, go to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 631.601.4555.