For both individuals and teams, the primary aim of coaching or mentoring is to increase their potential for success in their professional lives. As a leader, your role in the coaching or mentoring relationship depends quite a bit on whether you are the giver or receiver.
Coaching or Mentoring an Individual
Mentoring is a much longer term relationship and more informal than coaching but both require similar skills:
- Attentive: As a mentor or coach, you must be able employ active listening before you can begin to understand who the other person is and what feedback or support they need.
- Honest: As a mentor, you want to be honest about your own struggles—they will help the mentee to put their struggles in context and do more than any lecture could to indicate paths forward. As both a coach and a mentor, you need to be honest about why the person would benefit from coaching or mentorship.
- Direct: Your feedback or guidance loses impact if you waffle or refuse to give guidance when it is asked for. You cannot live the other person’s life, but you should be straightforward about how their actions are affecting their career and where they might need to change.
- Prepared: Your time and energy is valuable but so is the other person’s. Come to the mentoring or coaching session with an idea of what you want to cover and any materials, information, or resources that might be needed.
- Respectful: Both mentoring and coaching require mutual respect. You may end up learning as much from the other person as they learn from you. In addition, you should respect the other person enough to partner with them to solve problems and accept ideas that may be outside your own comfort zone.
Coaching Your Team
One of the quickest routes to disengagement by your team is to coach or mentor them with the ulterior purpose of meeting your own agenda. That is one reason why leaders often select outside coaches for their team, either a professional coach or a colleague from another part of the organization.
The job of the coach or mentor is to facilitate the journey toward team synergy while staying objective, keeping the team’s trust, and trying to build stronger team dynamics overall without focusing on solving a single problem. The coach creates a safe, although public, environment for dealing with issues the team has kept simmering below the surface. Coaching in this context is a way for the team to learn how to deal with issues on its own and to communicate effectively with each other and others.
During the coaching or mentoring session, the team needs to talk with each other and with the team leader respectfully. But as leader of the team, you have to be prepared to have the conversation include ways that you may have failed or succeeded in setting clear goals, encouraging collaboration, providing useful feedback, or handling disputes. You must see yourself as part of the team and be willing to acknowledge your share in their struggles.
Being a Great Recipient of Coaching or Mentoring
When someone offers to coach or mentor you, they are not concentrating on your failings but on your potential. Why would anyone both to coach or mentor an individual if they felt that person was incapable of change or growth? If you want to gain the most from the coaching or mentoring relationship, you must be:
- Resilient: You understand that solutions exist, are optimistic about your ability to find them once you have help, and you are willing to take a chance on failure. You have a growth mindset.
- Aware: You stay alert to your coach’s or mentor’s own needs (for example, confidentiality if they confide their past history to you) and respect limits on their time and energy.
- Accountable: If you are asked to follow with on an exercise, action, or research, you follow through in a timely manner.
- Open: You speak opening about your struggles; you are open about your needs and what you would like from the mentorship or coaching relationship. You are willing to listen to and consider alternative plans, strategies, or solutions that may not have occurred to you.
- Responsible: You know that the only person you can change is yourself.