Mentoring is often overlooked, or possibly confused with coaching. It is, in fact, a very different and especially important element of personal development.When we help our clients to identify and nurture their high performers, or to conduct a successful major transformation programme, we use a mix of tools. We’re always keen to state that we’re different to anyone who comes into your business and uses an off-the-shelf training programme or change model and that’s because we tailor everything we do to ensure you reach, and exceed, your desired outcomes.The reason we use a range of tools is that everyone is different. People learn in different ways; they engage with different approaches, and they need differing levels of support. Mentoring is, in our opinion, an important tool that is often left out of the personal development mix.
What is mentoring?
Often lumped in with coaching, mentoring is to advise or train someone by sharing your own skills and experience to help them improve their performance. It is different to coaching, with which it is often confused, because it does involve advising rather than the questioning approach used in coaching.
A good coach should encourage their coachee to find the answer to a challenge from within.
A good mentor should use what they have at their own disposal to help their mentee to progress, be that sharing knowledge, providing connections, acting as a referee or simply offering encouragement and support.
Because mentoring is more directive than coaching, it pushes those on the receiving end to extend their reach, to try new things. It actively enables people to move to the next step in their personal development journey because it gives them the ‘how’ as well as the ‘what’.
Why is it the missing piece of the puzzle?
When businesses undertake development for their people, they tend to focus on training and coaching.
But, if we consider the Skill Will matrix, where we plot people against whether they can or can’t achieve something (skill) and whether they will or won’t undertake it (will) we find that it is mentoring that can move people to maximum performance in each sector.
Coaching is able to move people forward in terms of can and will – the attitude needed to want to improve. Training can move people forward in terms of can – it provides the skills themselves. But it is mentoring which can move them the extra mile.
People choose a mentor, so the relationship starts out being based on respect. They may pick someone who has already achieved what they wish to, so there is an aspirational element to their choice. This respect and trust that someone else has already achieved what they are aiming for provides that knowledge that ‘it can be done’. This is hugely powerful in breaking down any limiting beliefs and, because a mentor will also signpost the way (making introductions or sharing opportunities), it takes their personal development several steps further than either coaching or training alone.
As with many things, a holistic approach is always best. By combining these tools, we can offer all individuals the best outcome but it is important to remember that mentoring is as valid as the other methods and can be a much longer lasting relationship which evolves with the individual as they grow in their personal development.