Sunday, September 19th, 2021

Developing employees through coaching and mentoring

Posted: Monday, January 3, 2011

By Andrea Moore and Jennifer Ruffo

Some companies incorporate coaching and mentoring as stand-alone tools; others use them to supplement formal training. Some use external coaches and mentors (which can be a great option), while others choose to utilize internal coaches and mentors (which can be cost-effective).

In many ways coaching and mentoring are similar, but they do approach employee development from different angles.

The premise of coaching is that those receiving it have inside of themselves all the answers they need in order to close the gap between where they are and where they want to go — but that for some reason they find themselves stuck. These people do not need advice or a role model. They don’t need a therapist to help them deal with the past. They simply need someone to dig beneath the surface, ask the right questions, and help them move forward to reach their development goals.

This idea of helping the participant to find his or her own answers is the foundation of coaching. The participant is the one with the expertise, and the coach (who approaches the situation from an objective point of view) is completely focused on him or her. Coaching engagements can range from a single conversation to a multi-year engagement. Coaches master skills such as asking powerful questions, staying curious, listening empathically, reframing situations, celebrating successes, and giving feedback. The coach can be a colleague within the organization, or he or she can come from outside the organization.

Mentoring, on the other hand, centers on a relationship between an employee who has potential (the protégé) and a colleague with expertise (the mentor). The protégé seeks the support and training of the mentor in order to learn and to grow specific skills. The mentor, passing on knowledge and insight and offering direction, serves as a subject matter expert and a role model for the protégé. Mentoring relationships can range anywhere from a three-month engagement to an entire professional career. Protégés may have several mentors over their professional life or one mentor they find to carry them throughout their career. The mentor often works within the organization, although he or she could be a professional contact outside of the organization.

If you’re considering coaching and mentoring, one important thing to consider is that often they are most effective when you offer them in conjunction with each other. When developing your coaching and mentoring programs, make sure they reinforce each other. Build your coaching and mentoring programs upon your organization’s core competencies, but do so in innovative ways; take into account the complexities of your employees and your organization, keeping in mind the ultimate goal — to develop and grow employees who are engaged and productive.