Improving productivity with coaching and mentoring

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learning solutions

Improving Productivity Through Coaching and Mentoring
Nancy Thomas and Scott Saslow

Although executive coaching receives quite a bit of press in the management development community, mentoring is a less understood and less common development technique. That might soon change, however.

May 2007

I www.clomedia.com I Chief Learning Officer
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learning solutionsAlthough there are some superficial similarities between coaching and mentoring, the differences — and, more important, the application of the two techniques — are often substantial. In fact, some organizations find mentoring is less expensive and provides a greater impact than coaching. Coaching generally comes in the form of oneon-one sessions between a manager and his or her coach. (Althoughthere is team coaching, it is less popular.) More often, though, organizations use external coaches. In some organizations, however, there is a desire to hire or train more internal coach-

es, especially in larger organizations that can afford to have full-time coaches on staff. Coaching assignments range across a spectrum in terms of their goals, but two common themes are communication andinterpersonal skill building. Typically, coaching assignments are finite and designed to help a manager build a skill or improve performance in a few specified areas. Coaches often have professional backgrounds in industrial psychology or organizational behavior, and some have certificates from at least one coaching industry organization. Mentoring is defined as a relationship between two people inwhich a more experienced person

Mentoring is defined as a relationship between two people in which a more experienced person agrees to support the development of a less experienced person, traditionally viewed as a protégé and today often referred to as a “mentee.”

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May 2007

I www.clomedia.com I Chief Learning Officer

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agrees tosupport the development of a less experienced person, traditionally viewed as a protégé and today often referred to as a “mentee.” Organization-sponsored formal mentoring is meant to meet specific objectives, is structured and might be one part of a broader development program. Informal mentoring is less structured and may be initiated by either the mentor or mentee, or it might evolve through existingwork relationships. Mentor/mentee assignments are crucial and typically are made with someone outside a person’s reporting structure and even in a different division. Mentors typically are selected from within the organization and don’t have any professional training or certification in the practice. The process is intended to help the protégé learn the ropes of a new culture or how things getdone in the organization, to expose a high-potential employee to more senior roles or offer insight into the politics of an organization. “It is kind of a MapQuest — it greatly reduces the time it takes to learn how to get around the organization,” said Michele Vion, Level 3 Communications senior vice president of human resources and business partnering. Vion regularly mentors others and has foundmentors to be helpful in her own career. Although there are many executive coaches in the marketplace (some estimate there are more than 10,000 in the United States), mentoring as a profession is far less developed and promoted as such. The market survey “Leadership Development Best Practices” (The Institute of Executive Development and the Danish Leadership Institute), revealed 86 percent ofcompanies offered coaching for executives, and only 43 percent offered formal mentoring. Although there are many professionals who offer coaching services, relatively few provide expertise and guidance on setting up a mentor program.

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