The units are about planning and developing a systematic coaching and mentoring strategy, and then monitoring its implementation in an organization. The units apply to leaders seeking to ensure that learning improves individual and organizational capabilities. They do not include giving coaching and mentoring yourself.
You will need to follow these requirements in a way that works in your organization’s context and meets it needs. (In other words, don’t make a complicated extra system that works differently from how you do everything else.) Coaching and mentoring are usually for a defined period and require good interpersonal relations. They aren't necessarily managed in hierarchical relationships.
What is mentoring? What is coaching?
Both are one-to-one teaching. Further than that, there are three main opinions:
Mentoring is having a more experienced person as a guide and a respected role model. It has a long-term focus on personal learning. A mentor is a personal advisor, and a friend with whom the student can share joys, offload burdens and focus on personal growth. It includes a wide range of learning oriented to exchange of wisdom, support, and guidance in personal or career growth. Mentoring generally needs to be fairly informal; it is primarily a relationship, not just a procedure or activity.
A coach is a one-to-one teacher, who provides one-to-one training in a skill and helps to improve work performance. It may be a program, such as a de facto apprenticeship. A coach finds the right questions and asks students so that they can find their own answers. In particular, a coach foresees future challenges and guides students to develop their own responses.
Another view is that a mentor is the same as a coach. This view has increasingly fallen to the wayside, even though the difference is perhaps more of degree than of kind.
A similar definition simply tries to cover all possibilities by using the following elements:
an independent person (i.e. not the mentoree's supervisor)
engaged in two-way communication with the mentoree
a primary role is to provide constant encouragement and assistance
facilitates the mentoree's attainment of personal growth and/or work related goals
provide information, guidance and constructive comments
evaluate the mentoree's plans, decisions, goals and objectives
gives support and encouragement
highlights shortfalls in agreed performance where necessary
maintains confidentiality in the relationship
does not take over problems and try to solve them
does not give advice, criticism or solutions, but supports mentorees to make their own decisions.
I'd suggest that it's also more complex than the above definition. Consider the following offers to mentor:
"I'll teach you how to do this stuff."
"Two heads are better than one. I'll discuss your ideas with you."
"I'm here. I'll give you advice if you ask."
"I'll ask you how you are going and keep you accountable for staying on track."
"I'll point out the dangers just up ahead, and tell you what they look like. But it will you job to figure out what to do."
"I've been through lots of experiences and I'd like to tell you about them if it will help."
"I'll be there for you to bounce ideas and feelings off."
"It's a journey. I'll travel with you."
"I care and I'm listening. I'll be there for you if you need to talk it out."
Consequently, it looks like we can arrange the different views into many points between two extremes: the "imparter of skills" at one extreme and the "personal counselor for the emotionally healthy" at the other.
Instead of saying that mentoring is something in particular, perhaps it's a range of things that depend on the people and the situations you face. So unless your organization has a specific role for mentoring, you will be better equipped if you have a range of tools in your toolkit.
How long have coaching and mentoring been around?
Thousands of years. And, in various forms, it's still the biggest educational program on the planet.
And it's probably more successful than formal class-room education based on sheer numbers of people learning what they need to know and its solid track record of making sure that people can do the job they are trained to do.
John Smith runs Smith Training, which is a vocational training school. He has a network of businesses that will take on his students as apprentices.
New students start with classes for training in basic skills that employers expect before students show up in the workplace.
In the next step, John assigns students to employers. In each workplace, he meets with the foreman or a senior tradesman who might supervise the apprentice. He checks that the workplace and the supervisor are a good match. If so, he introduces the apprentice to him/her and there is an interview. If they decide to go ahead, John, the employer and the apprentice sign an agreement. It specifies the learning goals, the terms of the apprenticeship, and the responsibilities of all parties.
After than, John visits the workplace to see if it is going well. If it is, he visits less frequently. If he suspects problems, he visits more frequently and investigates problems. John could pull an apprentice out of an unsuccessful relationship, although he has never had to do so.
The apprentice is also assessed in the workplace. John does some of the assessment by direct observation, while other parts of the assessment depend on a logbook, filled in b the student and the workplace supervisor.
The Iona Foundation is a rehabilitation center for young men with drug addiction issues. Each shift is manned by a Shift Manager and one or more Shift Assistants. They check that activities run smoothly and to schedule, and resolve any problems arising.
Shift Managers are responsible to coach and mentor their Shift Assistants who are in training. Each one has a written set of learning goals and is assessed on the job. Shift Assistants also attend a regular class with Billy, the head of training, which gives him an opportunity to monitor the Assistants’ progress. Billy also meets separately with each Shift Manager and each Shift Assistant to make sure that Assistants progress smoothly and that any problems are resolved.
Brad Williams is the Principal of Smallville Elementary School. He found that new graduates needed help in establishing themselves as teachers. Most of them found adjustment to teaching to be very demanding and stressful, and that many of their lessons were not particularly effective.
Brad assigned a senior teacher as coach and mentor to each new teacher coming into the school. Their role was to help them adjust to the teaching role, check that their lesson plans were effective, and help them make emotional adaptations to the demands made of them.
Brad meets separately with each coach-mentor and each new teacher to make sure that the new teacher progresses smoothly and that any problems are resolved. Although no specific records were kept, Brad inquired as to whether the relationship was working. He also had to monitor the kind of relationship. Was it cool and professional or close and personal? Were temperaments compatible? What were the strengths and weakness of each? In other words, did they maintain a balance of mentoring and coaching? He generally presumes that if both the coach-mentor are positive about the benefits of the relationship, then he can monitor less closely. If one side is positive and the other is not, he investigates further. He sometimes finds that the new teacher has learned all he/she can from that coach-mentor and needs to move on to a different coach-mentor. Although it is possible that both sides are negative, it has never happened.
A theological college assigned students to churches for practicum. Jeff, the Practicum Dean, considered the emerging abilities of each student and matched them to churches that would make suitable placements. He also considered the prospective mentor-coaches in each church.
When Jeff assigned a student to a church, he also gave them a specific job description that suited the situation i.e. the church, the mentor-coach, and the stage of the student’s development. Students had to write regular reports and meet with Jeff. At the end of the practicum, Jeff asked mentor-coaches for written reports. He did not accept the mentor-coach’s reports as assessment results but evaluated them. In some cases, they were influenced, positively or negatively, by local "political factors" and relationships in the churches.
Jell also had to report to a senior faculty meeting, and the group would review the practicum program. This wasn’t particularly difficult, because the program, as a whole, was excellent. The problems related mainly to the weaknesses and faults of individual students and churches. The main changes introduced over time were to improve sequencing, so that the first stages were mainly focussed observation, middle stages involved limited responsibilities, and the final practicum was a student-defined major project that required initiative, leadership, and adaptation to the needs of a specific situation.
Developing a strategy
Start by doing some research to find out whether your organization really needs a coaching and mentoring program. This usually means asking a range of people, but you might also look at current best practice.
If it’s useful, find out what the role of the coach or mentor should be. It might help to write a simple purpose statement or a job description.
The next step is to write or adapt a coaching procedure that suits your organization and its needs. In doing so, you will make the following decisions:
Why do you need the coaching program?
Who will be involved? Who are the stakeholders?
What their roles will each one have?
What responsibilities each one will have?
What outcomes do you expect?
What is the time-line for implementing the strategy? (Consult with relevant stakeholders.)
You should also look at matters raised below in preparation and implementation. You don’t have to do them yet, but you will probably need to address them in your planning.
Support and approval
Get your organization’s support and approval for the strategy. The procedure is usually to talk to people in leadership, but in some cases it involves giving a formal presentation to senior management. In the case studies, you will see that the practicum was usually essential to students being able to succeed. If so, it is fairly easy to demonstrate the need for and potential benefits of the program.
Resistance can take several forms:
In some cases, people simply learn to put up with the status quo and don’t see how they could improve.
If it involves people committing paid time, the effects on the budget or the schedule might require a cost-benefit analysis.
Some leaders like to throw people in at the deep end, because that’s how they learned. It generally produces a few spectacular successes, and many unpublicized drownings.
Some leaders follow the "initiation rite" theory of education. An initiation rite is a deliberately unpleasant experience that does not result in meaningful learning, but is justified by "We did it, so you have to do it too."
Prepare and implement
Do your preparation:
Make a plan that demonstrates how people will get coached (e.g. face to face, on-line mentoring, individual or group). It needs to work in your organization and meet the goals of the program.
New people will probably need induction. For example, coaches probably need to know how much they are responsible to impart skills and how much is done by an educational or training organization. What should they do if something doesn’t work? How much time will it take?
Design tools and resources for coaches and trainees. These usually include report forms and log books.
In your preparation, check any legal, regulatory and organizational compliance requirements (e.g. confidentiality and privacy). Make sure you comply with them during implementation.
Establish a system for recruiting coaches and trainees. Look at the case studies for the examples of systems.
In implementation, your first task is to promote the program. How you do it will depend greatly on the kind and size of organization, your networking skills, and whether the program is internal or involves external parties. It is usually quite easy to promote an internal program in a small organization.
Recruit and select coaches and trainees. To do this, you will need to establish means and procedures for matching coaches with trainees, and managing the coach-trainee relationship. For example, do you need a form to set goals and sign off that the trainee can do whatever they were learning? Then induct, match and brief coaches and trainees.
Monitor and support
Check that the coaching strategy is implemented well in practice and consistently with work practices.
You will probably need to support coach-mentors. Most of the time this will be answering their questions and solving problems as they arise. Some kinds of problems don’t have easy solutions, but you can at least discuss them. If coach-mentors need extra professional development, you should arrange it, but you don’t have to give it yourself.
Relationships can be difficult. Your role is to monitor relationships and plan a way to resolve differences and problems in them. You should ensure they follow your organization’s policies and procedures. Part of the difficulty is navigating the temperament and the weaknesses and strengths of the people involved. However you also need to respect the role of the line manager, which normally involves a range of other responsibilities that might be irrelevant to you.
Some individuals make great positive contributions, and it is your role to recognize and acknowledge them.
Review and report
Choose a way of collecting data that is appropriate to your organization’s context and needs. Hint: Keep it simple. Observations and interviews work best. Feedback forms are of dubious value, as people tend to be overly positive or negative, or ignore them entirely.
Collect, analyze and report data on the outcomes of the strategy at individual or group level.
In your written report:
Mention ongoing opportunities for coaching and mentoring, considering the needs, the kinds of people you have, and the organizational context.
Promote those ongoing opportunities.
Write your information for evaluating the strategy