As the demand for business coaching continues to grow, organizations are looking for new methods and models to invest in their top executive talent.
But just as business coaching should not be confused or conflated with therapy, companies should also keep in mind that performance coaching is a different modality than mentoring. While mentoring is an excellent strategy for organizations to use to promote career development, I have seen firsthand how it is outside the scope of executive coaching.
As the CEO of an artificial intelligence-powered executive coaching platform, I’ve seen that if your organization is interested in providing mentoring as well as executive coaching, it’s important to understand the differences and to clarify the expectations and scope of each type of professional relationship.
Mentoring Versus Coaching: What’s The Difference?
Many of us have had great mentors throughout our careers, but these mentoring relationships — even if they were part of a formal mentoring program within our company or professional organization — are often limited in scope. Mentoring is typically a limited endeavor that, since it is often being done as an unpaid relationship, is intended to respect the time and attention of the mentor. Executive coaching, on the other hand, is a paid relationship that is often able to go deeper into the client’s challenges.
Mentoring can be hugely valuable, as can coaching, but it’s important to understand their differences and learn how to maximize the benefits of both types of relationships.
Making The Most Of A Mentorship
When entering into a mentoring relationship, people often do not have many specific goals. Mentors can pose provocative questions and help their mentees figure out their next career step, but because of the limited time and resources, mentorships tend to be more informal and casual. A generous mentor might give you some life-changing advice, but that’s not their “job,” per se. The expectations for a mentoring relationship are limited.
If you want to make the most of a mentoring program within your organization, there are a few key tips. According to Maureen Metcalf, who wrote a Forbes article titled “Seven Keys To Creating A High-Impact Mentoring Program,” leaders should effectively match mentors and mentees, ask participants to make involvement commitments to the mentoring program, set and track specific goals, and more.
Mentorship programs, instead of coaching, can be the best choice for an organization to consider if you want to create better relationships within your organization, expose your talent to different career fields, or improve organizationwide goals for retention, engagement and other key metrics.
Maximizing Your Success With Coaching
With executive coaching, the client and coach tend to create a more specific, detailed plan for what they want to accomplish together, which usually includes agreed-upon time frames, milestones and measurable results. I believe the best executive coaches are eager and willing to set tangible goals for what people can expect to get out of working with them.
Use these tips to start your coaching relationship on the right foot:
1. Make sure you understand your coach’s unique strengths. Some coaches have industry-specific expertise; some coaches have had high-level leadership positions; others have a particular leadership methodology or philosophy that they bring to their coaching relationships. Before choosing an executive coach, make sure you understand your coach’s particular strengths.
2. Clarify your goals with the coach. What do you hope to get out of the coaching relationship? Do you want to get a promotion, launch a new product line or accomplish less tangible goals such as developing a stronger executive presence?
3. Set measurable milestones and metrics. Your coach should be able to help you clarify what you want to accomplish together and create measurable milestones and metrics to assess your results. For example, if you want to improve your leadership skills, your coach could conduct 360-degree surveys before and after the coaching program, to assess your progress.
It’s true that some coaches also have an element of being a “mentor” as part of their professional practice; they are typically happy to share their expertise and experience, especially if they have walked the same path that the client is now navigating. That said, an effective coach does not just talk about their own experience; they have a proven, repeatable system for teaching, motivating, inspiring and helping unlock the potential of their clients.
If you want to offer formal executive coaching in your organization, there are a few best practices to follow:
• Get buy-in from coachees. Whoever is selected for executive coaching needs to be fully committed to the process. They need to understand and believe in the value of coaching and have specific ideas for how coaching can help their performance.
• Commit to a specific time frame. Coaching can be an ongoing, open-ended commitment, but it’s often best to specify a limited time frame to try to achieve specific results.
• Have clear expectations for who you want to participate in the coaching program and why. Are these high-potential leaders who need extra development? Are they being groomed for upper management? Make sure your organizational goals are aligned with your coaching goals for the individual participants.
One of the biggest challenges is finding the right fit between a coach and coachee; the coaching relationship is heavily dependent upon finding the right match of personalities and thinking styles. Coaches aren’t the same as teachers or mentors; they are “thought partners” who help inform and anticipate the growth that happens for their coachees. By following these best practices, you can be well on your way to overcoming this challenge.
Mentoring programs are a great option for organizations to nurture their younger talent and engage the expertise of their senior leaders. A good mentor can be valuable to an individual’s career, while a great coach can help transform the trajectory of an entire organization.