These days in corporate sector, everybody is talking about the role of HR professional as a coach and mentor. People are exited as well as confused. Exited, because it is new and it is challenging. Confused, because many are not aware of the difference between mentoring and coaching.
I got the inspiration to write this write-up from one such confused e-mail from one of my professional friend. I was describing my job profile to this friend of mine, wherein I mentioned that one of my role in present job is “Employee Coaching” to which he replied that what is coaching in layman’s language is “Mentoring” in corporate sector. It was a shock for me. In this article, I will be covering:
Differences and similarities in mentoring and coaching
Role of HR as a Mentor and Coach
What they should do as a mentor and as a Coach
How to be an effective mentor and coach.
Basic definition of mentoring and Coaching
What Is Coaching?
To begin, coaching is a form of consulting, and is a new and rapidly growing profession, particularly, the area of personal development coaches. Coaches will identify strengths, weaknesses, goals, and needs, typically through a series of prearranged sessions over a month. In the words of Bentley, the four core elements of the coaching process are support, modeling, step-by-step development, and encouragement.
The key is it is a way to give employees instruction on how they can better use the skills and expertise they already have more effectively.
Coaching assists in “improving or developing performance”.
The coaching process focuses more on eliciting information, asking questions, and focusing on details, than about telling people what to do. Coaches may be managers within the system, and the best coach is most likely your own boss.
What Is Mentoring?
In Ancient Greece, Odysseus entrusted the education of his son, Telemachus, to a trusted counsellor and friend. This trusted and wise friend, Mentor, reportedly became the counsellor, guide, tutor, and coach, sponsor and mentor for his protégé, Telemachus. (Hunt & Michael 1983).
David Clutterbuck (1996) defines mentoring as “offline help by one person to another in making significant transitions in knowledge, work or thinking”.
Put at its simplest the Mentor is there to help the Mentee to learn. Much of the learning is enabled by the Mentor guiding the Mentee into learning situations and then helping them to reflect on and consolidate the learning.
To put in a more professional manner, Mentoring is a process of aiding another with transitions; it is about one person helping another (Megginson 1995,14).
It involves one person, the mentor, helping another person or mentee to reach his or her goals, through coaching, counselling, guidance, sponsoring, and the parlaying of knowledge (Stueart 1993,144).
Mentoring is usually “a three-way beneficial process,” which helps the mentor, the mentee, and the organization (Stueart 1993,144).
The primary function of a mentoring relationship is to further the career of the mentee, but the person being mentored is not the only one who benefits from the relationship.
Specific goals that can be achieved through the mentoring process include
Advancement of employees’ careers,
Solidification of relationships between managers and staff,
A deepening of the commitment to the goals and values of an organisation, and
The development of personal connections
The key to mentoring is to closely link it to the mission, goals, and priority strategies of the organisation. Only an integrated, facilitated process, which is linked, to current and future mission or business imperatives can be expected to stand the buffeting of the winds of change. Of course, mentoring must be monitored and tracked to measure its impact (Murray 1995).
Differences/Similarities between Coaching and Mentoring
Mentoring has had a long history with its roots stretching back to the 8th century B.C. where it got its name from the elderly friend and counsellor of Odysseus, named Mentor, who also offered guidance and acted as tutor to Odysseus’ son Telemachus. It continued to be the basis on which commerce, craft, and art was carried on from ancient times until the inception of capitalism. Coaching, on the other hand, has only been around for the last few decades, and has only received great attention in the 1990s (North 1997,206). Mentors can perform similar functions as a coach, but is usually someone who works within the same facility, whereas coaches are more often from outside the organisation, but not always (Judge 1997,72).
Both coaching and mentoring are great opportunities for learning, which use “effective questioning that brings insight, which fuels curiosity, which cultivates wisdom”. Asking questions, rather than telling or ordering is the fundamental component, which brings the processes of mentoring and coaching together. This implies, of course, that you must be an excellent listener and communicator.
However, they are very different concepts. Mentoring encompasses coaching, but it also focuses on the individual, his or her performance, within a context of objectives. Mentoring is unique “in that it does not exclude other methods, but exists alongside them, complementing them and adding value”
The differences between mentoring and coaching are as follows:
“Coaching [is] taking someone through the experiential learning cycle in a systematic way with the intention of improving the capability to apply specific skills or deal with problematic situations.
Mentoring [is] assigning a respected and competent individual (other than the direct boss) to provide guidance and advice in order to help someone cope with and grow in the job”.
Coaches focus on a specific set of problems, or the “results of the job,” exploring solutions and opportunities for the employee to use.
The mentor, on the other hand, zeros in on the individual, focusing not only on the present, but with an eye always on the future. Mentors do provide some of the same services as coaches, but they are built into a complex, ever-evolving synergetic relationship that is based on mutual respect and a friendship of sorts.
How to prepare yourself for the Role of Coach or Mentor
Considerable commitment is required of you to fulfil the role properly, with the expectation that as managers, your communication skills are at a stage where the art of listening has been mastered. And have patience!!! In the words of Chip R. Bell the mentors are part wizard, comic, motivator, sergeant, and partner, and believes that great mentors are “effective at surrendering, accepting, gifting, and extending”. Surrendering in the sense of not controlling; accepting or including rather than judging; gifting, not using manipulatively; and extending, pushing the relationship to grow beyond any preconceived boundaries.
From research on mentors compiled in the early 1990s, we know that there are three integral qualities, which are very highly valued by learners, and they are
A keen understanding of management practices,
Organisational know-how, and
Let your employees benefit from the experience, knowledge, and success you have attained, and there will be a win-win situation. Expect to become exhilarated.
What to Have in the Coaching/Mentoring Understanding
Without guidelines and expectations, no relationship can succeed, so before anyone undertakes to become part of a coaching or mentoring process, there must be an informed decision made by the managers and the learners.
Employees who are willing to assume responsibility for their own growth and development, who are receptive to positive and negative feedback, and who are willing to accept suggestions and advice,these employees are usually very positive about their jobs, the workplace, and their colleagues, and are people one could envision as organizational leaders of the future (Gilley 1996,177). After choosing a good candidate, especially one deemed for a mentoring relationship, you may want to develop a formalized plan of action, which describes respective responsibilities, goals the employee would like to achieve, some strategies that can help, and target dates for the completion of specific activities (Gilley 1996,181). A mentoring plan can also be beneficial because it is a visual identification of progress made, and can act as a motivator (Gilley 1996,181). Of course, not all mentoring/coaching relationships are formalized ones, and remain as spontaneous discussions and meetings, however, regardless of the level of commitment, boundaries should be set out to avoid problems that can arise (Bell 1996,60).
Gilley and Boughton have proposed a series of activities which employees should be responsible for if they want to be involved in a successful mentoring venture. They must take responsibility for their own development, trust their mentors’ suggestions and advice, expect both positive and negative feedback, not be controlling, and be willing to accept challenging assignments (Gilley 1996,175). And finally, make sure you include an understanding that results are expected, and an agreed method of evaluation will be in place before a coaching or mentoring relationship can be cemented.
HR as a MENTOR
In the mentoring role HR professionals pursue, they partner with the manager and focus specifically on development. Few internal HR people are devoting time and energy to this powerful and useful intervention. Organisations mostly hire external coaches and consultants. In fact, HR professionals are missing a career enhancing opportunity if they decline to develop these relationships.
Fundamental to the role is trust. “An executive might feel embarrassed, admitting he needs help or worry that the HR person might tell others in the organisation.”
To help, the HR person must be extremely credible with executives. Don’t expect to coach unless your credentials, reputation and standing in the organisation are impeccable. The person participating in the coaching has to feel you are looking out for best interests and maintaining confidentiality at all time.
HR experts must be knowledgeable about techniques and other feedback instruments to provide impartial feedback to the manager. Coaching often takes the place of training for individuals who are advanced in their careers. So, the HR professional must be well-versed in management and behavioural theory and practices. He/she must know about and have access to a variety of resources. Goal setting strategies and highly advanced communication skills is necessary for the HR person to succeed.
How Does Mentoring Work?
For Mentoring to work effectively the Mentor must not take responsibility away from the Mentee. In order for this to work the Mentor should take responsibility for managing the relationship but should allow the Mentee to ‘set the agenda’.
Managing the relationship involves ensuring that the Mentee feels supported and encouraged and able to speak with the Mentor without the fear of judgements being made. The Mentor also needs to feel that the discussion and information exchanged is kept confidential. Another requirement is that the Mentor enables the Mentee to move towards greater self-reliance and independence as quickly as possible. This should not be seen as seeking to end the relationship but rather to change it, thus developing a relationship that is more equal and interdependent.
Dos and Don’ts of Mentoring
· Help raise the Mentee’s spirits and aspirations
· Help the person to stand back from the problems of the moment and see work and life in a broader context
· Provide a listening ear, to allow the Mentee to ‘get things off their chest’
· Help the person to think through different options
· Provide information the Mentee may not have gained from other sources
· Give the person feedback on areas like their style, often areas where others don’t ‘bother’ to say
· Give encouragement
· Share experience
· Give lots of advice – you are usually too removed from a complicated situation to know what to do – help the Mentee to come up with their own answers
· Rescue them – it doesn’t help in the long term if you ‘take over’ someone else’s problems, people learn more from dealing with it themselves and have more confidence in the result
· Be judgmental and jump to conclusions
HR as a Coach
In the newer coaching role, which I am advocating HR professionals pursue, the HR person partners with the manager and focuses specifically on his development. Few internal HR people are working in this arena. Organizations have most frequently hired external coaches and consultants. But they don’t always need to do so, if HR professionals are prepared to take on this new role. In fact, an HR professional is missing a career enhancing opportunity if she declines to develop these relationships.
Fundamental to the role, according to Christina Zelazek, SPHR, Director of HR at The Mennonite Home of Albany, Oregon, is trust. “An executive might feel embarrassed admitting he needs help or worry that the HR person might tell others in the organization.” To help, she said, “the HR person must be extremely credible with executives. You obtain credibility from how you conduct yourself, from the ideas that you have, and your own political savvy.” Don’t expect to coach unless your credentials, reputation, and standing in your organization are impeccable. The person participating in the coaching has to feel you are looking out for his best interests and maintaining confidentiality at all times.
One of the most important factors the internal HR person brings to the coaching role is her knowledge of the organization, and the impact of the manager within that environment. This is also one of the reasons HR coaches fail to attract internal clients for these new relationships. Beyond the issue of complete confidentiality, the coaching assistance she is providing the executive must contribute more than organizational feedback to help the executive further develop his potential.
What the New Role Entails
HR coaches must be knowledgeable about surveys and other feedback instruments to provide impartial feedback to the manager. Coaching often takes the place of training for individuals who are advanced in their careers. So, the HR professional must be well versed in management and behavioral theory and practices. She must know about and have access to a variety of resources for the executive as well. Goal setting strategies, follow-up organization, and highly advanced communication skills are necessary for the HR coach to succeed.
As a larger organizational issue, the HR manager can serve as a resource to coordinate and unify the process of coaching. She can monitor the expenditure of resources, check out the credentials of external coaches, and assist with the measurement and determination of results
A. What is the goal of this discussion? What goal or activity are you working on?
B. What do you want to accomplish, both short-term and long-term? (The length of time will often affect what can be accomplished.)
C. Are we talking about something you want to produce, or about how you work (an end goal such as completing a product design or a performance goal such as improving your writing skills)?
D. If the goal positive, challenging, attainable, and measurable? (If none of these criteria are met, you should question whether the goal is worthwhile.)
E. What is happening now related to your goal? (Few goals are isolated from other people and plans within the company, and it is important to be aware of what else is happening that will affect your plans.)
F. Who is involved and how do those people view your goal? (Most goals involve other people, and you need to ensure that those people are aware of what you are doing and support your efforts.)
G. What have you done about this so far and what results did your actions produce? (You need to know whether the situation you are discussing is about a future plan or is trying to fix a problem that has already arisen.)
H. What is happening, both inside and outside your group and the company, that will affect your goal? (No one works in isolation, and you need to recognise that other programs and events, both locally and in the larger world, may affect what you are doing.)
I. What are the major constraints to finding a way to move forward? (You cannot overcome barriers to your goal unless you recognise what they are and deal with them.)
J. What options do you have? (Getting the employee to consider alternative actions can not only help to broaden his perspective on the situation, it can also help you discover options that you may not have considered in the past.)
K. What are the costs and benefit of each of those options? (This gets the employee to think through each option in a larger context.)
L. What if …? (If the employee has not considered all of the options you can think of, you can help to expand his thinking by raising other possibilities in the form of “what if …” questions.)
M. Would you like another suggestion? (If the “what if” questions don’t help the employee to consider other options you would like him to consider, ask if he would like another suggestion. It is important to ask the question in this way, rather than imposing your own solution on the employee. Imposing a solution does not help the employee learn. Of course, there are times when you must impose a solution, such as when the employee’s plan will be dangerous to himself or others.)
N. What are you going to do, and when will you do it? (Get the employee to commit to a plan of action.)
O. Will this meet your goal? (If not, why do it?)
P. What obstacles do you expect to face, and how will you overcome them? (This is also a reality test.)
Q. Who needs to know what you are doing, and what support do you need? (Make certain the employee recognises the other parties that need to be involved or who will be affected by his work.)
R. Rate yourself, on a scale of 1 to 10, on the likelihood of carrying out this action. (If the rating is low, why bother continuing with the planning exercise?)
These questions are meant to serve as a guide, not as a fixed list that you must go through in every coaching situation. But using questions such as these will provide surprisingly positive results, whether you are using them with an employee, a peer, or your own manager. I have also used this method very successfully with my teen-aged daughter to get her to consider the thoroughness of her plans and the consequences of her actions.
Coaching your employees will make you a better manager and a more valuable company employee, and can only help you in your own career development.
Coaching and Mentoring are not the same thing. Our results and experience support the conclusion that mentoring is a power free, two-way mutually beneficial learning situation where the mentor provides advice, shares knowledge and experiences, and teaches using a low pressure, self-discovery approach. Teaching using an adult learning versus teacher to student model and, being willing to not just question for self discovery but also freely sharing their own experiences and skills with the protégé. The mentor is both a source of information/knowledge and a Socratic questioner. If I am your coach you probably work for me and my concern is your performance, ability to adapt to change, and enrolling you support in the vision/direction for our work unit.