Mentoring and Coaching in the Workplace – Effective Performance

In my previous article looking at coaching in the workplace, we touched on the differences between coaching and mentoring. So I thought it would be helpful to provide more detail about mentoring and coaching in the workplace and how you use them as a personal development tool in your leadership of effective teams.

When I look back at my own career in the corporate world, I wish I had received better training in mentoring and coaching. Like many software skill sets, you tended to pick these skills up along the way – with mistakes and all. So what I hope I can bring together in this article are the points I wish I had had earlier in my career and had been able to draw upon to better deliver for those in my teams.

Like all of my articles, your feedback and comments are always welcome.

What is Mentoring? 

Mentoring is a long-standing form of training, learning and development and an increasingly popular tool for personal growth. Mentoring has become a widespread development tool, particularly as effective teams have become more and more critical for businesses to deliver to their customer.

Mentoring is used specifically and separately as a form of long term tailored development for the individual, which benefits the organisation. The characteristics of mentoring are:

  • it is essentially a supportive form of development;
  • it focuses on helping an individual manage their career and improve skills;
  • personal issues can be discussed more productively unlike in coaching where the emphasis is on performance at work; and
  • Mentoring activities have both organisational and individual goals.

What is the Difference Between Mentoring and Coaching?

The following table, adapted from The Mentoring Pocketbookby Geof Alred and Bob Garvey Alred, highlights the differences between mentoring and coaching. It is separate and distinct from coaching, but coaching and mentoring can often overlap. 

The ongoing relationship can last for a long time.
The relationship generally has a short duration, with specific short-term goals in mind.
It can be more informal, and meetings can occur when the mentored individual needs guidance and support.
It is generally more structured, and meetings are regularly scheduled.
More long term and takes a broader view of the person. Often known as the ‘mentee’, but you can use the term client or mentored person.
Short-term (sometimes time-bounded) and focused on specific development areas/issues. 
Mentor usually passes on experience and usually is more senior in the organisation.
They are not generally performed because the coach needs direct experience of the client formal occupational role.
Mentor usually passes on experience and usually is more senior in the organisation.They are not generally performed because the coach needs direct experience of the client formal occupational role.
The focus is on career and personal development.
The focus is generally on development/issues in the workplace, rather than personal matters.
The mentored person sets the plan, with the mentor providing support and guidance to prepare them for future roles.
The plan focuses on achieving specific, immediate goals, rather than long-term objectives.
Revolves more around developing the mentee professionally.Coaching revolves more around specific development areas/issues.
Mentoring and coaching in the workplace is a rewarding and challenging role.

Benefits of Mentoring

In Everyone Needs a Mentor, David Clutterbuck describes how mentoring works and the business benefits of the approach. Benefits to the organisation include:

  • significant impact upon recruitment and retention (one study found that the loss of young graduates in the first expensive post training year was cut by two thirds); 
  • effective succession planning;
  • makes organisations adapt to change; and
  • increased productivity through better engagement and job satisfaction. 

While the benefits to the mentored person include: 

  • development outcomes which may include, knowledge, technical and behavioural improvements; 
  • better management of career goals;
  • developing wider network of influence; 
  • increased confidence and self awareness which helps build performance and contribution; 
  • mentors also benefit from the satisfaction of developing their colleagues and of passing on their knowledge, skills and expertise; and
  • line managers and HR also benefit from better employee focus and engagement. 

Different Types of Mentoring Activity

When I was starting down my path, I didn’t realise there were two types of mentoring, developmental and sponsorship. Not realising at the time, sometimes a mentee will need one or both.

Developmental Mentoring

Your focus is on helping someone to develop. The mentored employee sets the plan based on their own development needs, and the mentor provides insight and guidance, helping achieve the desired goals. 

Sponsorship Mentoring 

Sponsorship is a form of mentoring where the mentor is protégé (literally ‘one who is protected’). Here the mentor intervenes on the mentee’s behalf, and there usually is one-way learning. The mentor is usually more senior. These relationships can break down when the power relationship changes and when the mentee stops taking advice. 

When is Mentoring the Best Development Intervention?

Many experts advise that mentoring should be independent of any other training and learning activity. Again it should not be confused with coaching. Mentoring can be the best intervention in areas where the development task relates to an employee requiring more specialists, knowledge and information. However, there are other contexts where it is the best intervention you can use. We have listed below some of these contexts and their purpose.

InductionIt helps people get up to speed.
Support for developmentEnsures effective learning.
Career progressionAssist in identifying and supporting potential talent.
On the job learningTo enhance job-related knowledge and skills for the present.
Equal opportunity programmes To ensure proper integration and fairness of treatment.
Equal opportunity programmes 
To ensure proper integration and fairness of treatment.
Redundancy and outplacementTo assist individuals in managing the difficult transition. 
New projectsHelp rapid assimilation and delivery. 
New job transitionHelps the employee adjust.
Within change programmes
To help people adjust to change in the workplace.
On the job learningTo enhance job-related knowledge and skills for the present.

Performance Management Structure

In your performance management discussions with your manager, you can discuss mentoring within the personal development section. It could assist with many different forms of development, from work-life balance to improving the network, relationship building, and business competence.

Hints and Tips for the Mentor-Mentee Relationship

For both mentor and mentee, there are core attributes and skills to encourage and develop. In particular, for the mentor, demonstrating these behaviours is a critical step to relationship development.

Attributes, skills and top tips for mentors and mentee.

Listed below are some useful mentoring do’s and don’ts that several authors have highlighted. We encourage you to read through the list and see how you compare. We all have different leadership styles, which means some things will work well for us while others will not. With experience and time, you will develop your style and adapt to those we are working with.

Maintain confidentialityShare information with others that were to be private
Establish boundariesLeave expectations and boundaries un-discussed
Share your ideas and perspectives.Ignore your perspectives and hope they will go away
Strive to be open about family and work
Present yourself as a one-dimensional being
Find a common denominator to put the other at ease.
Assume that you have nothing in common
Think and behave inclusively
Anticipate that your partner won’t understand or won’t “get it.”
Reach for a high level of candid exchange regarding issues of difference
Assume that differences are destructive
Articulate any fears you might have about working with a person representing a significantly different perspective
Don’t assume that the mentoring partner won’t understand your perspective
Always maintain responsible and professional behaviours
Become too casual with the partnership
Respect your differences
Don’t stereotype or generalise.
Be honest about how your mentoring partnership is goingDon’t take it personally if your relationship doesn’t work. Not every pair will have a perfect personality fit. If this happens, and you feel comfortable discussing it with your mentor/ mentee, then do so and then alert your line manager.
Be respectful and considerate of your partner’s timeConsistently reschedule. Commit to a time and a date, and ensure that you stick to that commitment. If you find you have to reschedule, ensure that you are the one to rearrange a suitable date for the both of you.

Final Thoughts

The development of others through mentoring and coaching is a lifelong learning process. As long as you desire to help others and adapt and learn along the way, you will do just fine.

We have additional reading in developing more effective teams in the workplace you may find helpful. These articles come under our entrepreneur category, but in particular, the following three pieces may be of interest.

With all that has changed in the last few years, the growth in virtual teams has been spectacular; you can read more about them here. Leadership is critical in your success as a team member and leader – especially in the mentoring and coaching of others. We have an article that delves into this more, and you can read that here. And finally, we have highlighted in this article the need for continual learning and development, which we cover in our third article recommendation.

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