Coaches and Mentors – When To Be One?

September 20, 2016

Exploiting the full potential of talent isn’t an easy or quick process. It requires patience, commitment, dedication, and a lot of counseling, among several other things. And for all this, you need coaches and mentors to help guide and steer individuals towards the exploitation of their greatness that’s yet to make its mark.

I’ve often heard people say that they act as coaches for their teams. Some confess to being mentors for individuals who are trying to channelize their talent. But how do you choose when it’s time to be a mentor and when to be a coach?

When Do You Need Coaches and Mentors?

A coach has a short-term agenda that focuses on enhancing performance. Say you’ve implemented a new system and now you require your team to know how to use it. They’ll need a coach to guide them and develop their particular skills to use this system. Another way to look at it is when you share those words of wisdom with your team members that makes them go “Oh wow, I didn’t know you could do it this way!” That’s right, using your expertise and to transfer knowledge and skills is when you as their leader are acting as a coach.

A mentor, on the other hand, as a long-term, planned agenda which focuses on specific developmental needs. In this role, you don’t need to be a subject matter expert. You don’t need to know anything about the individual’s skill. As a mentor, you’re trying to understand what makes people ambitious and drives them towards success. What motivates them, professionally and personally? As a mentor, you’ll have a deeper relationship with your team and then work to extract the best out of them.

What Role Should You Choose To Be?

Ok so it’s clear what coaches and mentors do, but what’s going to work for you and your team? Depending on the situation, a little of both!

One of the key attributes a leader should possess is versatility. You have to be gentle and stern. Brave and cautious. Intuitive and calculated. Similarly, you have to be a coach and a mentor for your team and everyone else that you are professionally linked to.

When you want to develop a specific competency using performance management tools you want to be a coach. On the other hand, you’ll mentor them when you want to develop your talent pool or successors. And that’s because you’ll need to spend extensive time with your team and plan out every step of the way for their development. It’s not a specific skill or competency you’re enhancing, you’re enhancing them holistically.

Does One Formula Work For All?

Remember I said that depending on the situation you’ll need to decide when to be a coach or a mentor? Well, it’s not just situations that happen around the organization. It’s also situations that people are in. What I mean by that is the developmental level individuals are at will also be a factor that’ll help you decide your choice of role.

You see, mentoring is to develop individuals in the long-run. Basically, it’s addressing the needs of tomorrow for your company and team. Now if someone in your team has already reached their glass ceiling, would you be coaching them or mentoring them? Chances are you’ll be coaching them to enhance their skills so that they continue to do what they know, and do it better.

It’s not a bad idea to sometimes stop and think about what role you want to play before you offer advice. I know it isn’t easy switching hats so frequently or even so rapidly. But good coaches and mentors know that if their chosen role isn’t clear, instead of doing good, you’ll be harming the careers of your team members. And that’s definitely not what you want to be known for.

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Author: Paul Keijzer